In March, 2011, while we were still living and working in Las Vegas, I tripped and fell on my morning jog. I banged my cheekbone against the concrete when I went down, and I knew right away from the amount of blood that I was dripping that it was a significant injury. I used my sweat band as a compress and walked back to our home to share the bad news with my wife. I’m usually a bit sheepish about admitting when I’ve been hurt, so I played it down saying I needed a couple of bandaids. My wife immediately went into mother-mode. She took one look at my wound and said, “Get some clothes. You’re going to the emergency room.”
I ended up taking nine stitches and a day off work. The medical team at the emergency room was first rate, and the scar is barely noticeable. That’s the good news. The bad news came when I got the bill. The emergency room services including x-rays, a tetanus shot, and the local anesthetic came to over $2,500. The doctor’s services came to another $2,300. I had given up my medical coverage two months earlier because the premiums were too high, and I hardly ever needed to see a doctor. That was a bad decision looking back. Anyway, I was ultimately able to negotiate the total cost down to about $3,200, which hurt but we paid it. Needless to say, I went to a local clinic to have the stitches removed a week later for $50.
Flash forward a year-and-a-half to the present day. We moved to Boquete, Panama, just a month ago. My wife started feeling the symptoms of a sinus cold which ended up in her throat and her chest. Our neighbor was complaining of something similar, so they both went together to the local health clinic in town. The doctor examined my wife and told her, in English, that she didn’t have a cold but was reacting to something in the air. She and several hundred other people in town were experience the same thing. He prescribed four medicines including antihistamines and decongestants and a generic prescription strength Tylenol, and my wife was out of there in about 20 minutes.
The next stop was the pharmacy for both my wife and our neighbor, which was good because my wife doesn’t speak Spanish. They both returned from town about an hour after they left and I got the whole story. I was amazed when I learned the clinic charged my wife $7.50 and the total cost of the four prescriptions was $33.00. This was first rate care. After doing a little research, I learned these are typical of everyday prices for health care not only in Panama, but also throughout much of Latin America.
I only want to add that I feel fortunate to have found a great living environment around kind and gracious people. This whole experience just goes to reinforce my belief.