1,698 tourists used the complimentary medical coverage

As of November 2012, some 1,698 tourists had used the free health insurance that Panama offers to its visitors. Although the report issued by the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) on this service does not include cases attended in December, the figure already surpassed the 2011 records of 1,600 visitors attended.

Since January 2011, Panama has offered health insurance coverage for 30 days to tourists and Panamanians living abroad who enter the country via Tocumen International Airport. Four deaths were reported last year, one less than in 2011, and 320 cases were rejected because they did not meet the requirements of the policy to receive free care, for example if they had a pre-existing condition.

If a person gets injured or dies because they were using drugs or under the influence of alcohol, they will not be covered by the insurance. The three-year contract that the ATP signed with the company Generali establishes that the Panamanian government will pay $1.95 for every tourist and expatriate. The cases attended during the first 11 months of 2012 represented an expense of nearly half a million dollars, while in 2011 the patient care totaled $400,000.

Since Panama began to offer this benefit, Venezuelans, Colombians and Americans are the tourists who have most used the free insurance. The policy covers hospitalization and medical expenses valued at up to $7,000 for injuries caused by accident or illness, and up to $40,000 for an international medical evacuation to a hospital. Businesses in the tourism industry indicated that the free insurance has turned into a great marketing tool for the country, since tourists feel that they will not be helpless in the country in the case of an accident.

It has been mentioned that the coverage could extend to tourists who enter terminals other than Tocumen, but the contract continues to uphold the existing conditions. Annually, the ATP allocates a $4 million budget to cover the expenses incurred from the policy. In addition to medical coverage, the policy includes a benefit for baggage lost on flights within Panamanian territory and covers hotel expenses if medical recovery requires more than 10 days.