Panama offers free health insurance to tourists

Published Date Author: , May 2nd, 2012

Crossposted from the TravelBlog by Detour Travel

Panama launched a new program this year offering free health insurance to tourists.

Boats on a tropical beach in Panama

All this and free medical care too? Pinch me!

Obviously, this kind of thing only happens when a country wants to draw more tourism. Tourism is the country’s fastest growing industry, and this is part of Panama’s ongoing effort to develop its reputation as a tourist destination. Follow me below the fold for details and to learn more about Panama’s evolution.

Solomon Shamah, the country’s tourism minister, has indicated he particularly wants to encourage medical tourism. As visitors take advantage of this insurance program, we’ll experience the quality of Panama’s health care system. Minister Shamah is counting on us to be so impressed with what we see, we’ll come back for more.

What does Panama’s increasing focus on tourism mean for you? Two things. One, depending on what you’re after, Panama’s changing as a tourist destination. Its resort areas are being built up, such as Bocas del Toro on the Carribean coast and Playa Blanca on the Pacific. Vacation rental properties are also springing up. Luckily for nature lovers, most of Panama’s natural beauty is untouched; developing infrastructure just provides easier access to pristine rainforests, beaches, and islands.

A skateboarder flips his board in Panama City

Get hurt by negligence, extreme sports, or while intoxicated, and it's on your dime. Skateboarding without a helmet? Not gonna be covered.

Two – free insurance! Panama’s new health insurance program covers emergency dental work up to $2000 US, disease or accidental injury up to $7000 US. (Panama’s official currency is the US dollar.) But don’t go crazy: if your medical problems arise as a result of negligence, extreme sports, or intoxication, you’re on your own.

Here’s how it works. The insurance applies to any tourist who flies in to Panama City’s main airport, Tocumen International. Inside the airport, after the baggage claim, there’s a tourist information desk. There you can get a health insurance card valid for up to 30 days. Should you need medical attention, just present the card and your passport at any medical center. Easy!


Matt Smith in Guadalajara, Mexico

Matt in Mexico

Matt Smith is a guest blogger at Purple Roofs. He owns and operates Detour Travel, where he leads small groups to his favorite spots in Latin America. As Matt loves to say, “If our motto weren’t Small group tours with a twist, it would probably be Queer eye for the straight or LGBT traveler. Or Adventures in Latin America for tourists who hate tourists. Or maybe Eating there is half the fun! Hard to say.” Panama is one of Detour’s destinations and home to Matt’s out-laws.

All photos of Panama are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without the written authorization of Luis Rubio, a friend of Detour Travel.

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