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Sunday, August 25 2019 @ 11:10 pm EDT

Did You Have Insurance With British American in Panama? You Are Now Apparently Screwed

Insurance By DON WINNER for - One of the biggest news stories dominating the Panamanian press this morning is the breaking news that the British American insurance company is apparently going out of business, fast. Yesterday camera crews went to their offices and spoke with customers and clients - there are some 10,000 people who have (had) insurance with British American in the Republic of Panama. All of those people basically have the same questions - what's going to happen to them now? There are people who are scheduled for open heart surgery for example, who now don't know if they are covered or not. The television crews even interviewed the office employees who don't know if they have a job, if they are going to get paid, or what's going to happen to them. In short, nobody has a really clear view of what's going on and how it's all going to play out right now. But one thing is very clear - British American is basically toast.

Going Cheap on Insurance Coverage: It makes perfect sense for people to seek out lower prices when shopping for insurance coverage. And in all fairness, 10,000 people were caught flat footed by the collapse of British American because nobody saw it coming. One day they were a good and economical option, and the next they are gone - poof - just like that. However the phrase "you get what you pay for" is very true when it comes to something as important as insurance coverage. For example I heard from several people who are (were) perfectly happy with the "plan" offered by the Santa Fe hospital. I say "plan" because, to be perfectly clear, what they offer is not health insurance and they are not regulated by the Panamanian Superintendent of Insurance. And what happened to some people is that they learned later - when they really needed it - they were arbitrarily "dropped" from the "plan" because what they needed was too expensive or not covered. And since this "plan" is not controlled or regulated as insurance, that means they can basically do practically whatever they want. The end result is that you might save some money in the short haul, only to find yourself getting screwed in the long haul.

Ten Years Later: I heard from someone who has had coverage with British American for ten years. Up until yesterday they were happy customers without a care in the world. Now, they will have to go out and find some other kind of health insurance coverage, from another company or provider. Hopefully they have not developed any kind of health problem or "pre existing condition" over the last ten years that will now make it harder or more expensive for them to obtain health coverage. Ten years is a long time and a lot of things can happen as we age. I don't know exactly why British American went belly up in Panama but it might have been in some way related to the low rates they reportedly charged. At what point does the cart "tip over" - where they have more money going out and liabilities than they have coming in. I also understand there's an issue with $10 million dollars in bonds that were transferred from Panama to Trinidad - Tobago, that's at the root of the problems the government of Panama has with British American. That sounds to me like the people behind this company are taking the last of the money with them as they split, abandoning their 10,000 former customers here. Again, to be perfectly clear and absolutely honest, I still don't have all of the facts and details, and I'm sure they will be emerging over time. But right now, that's how I understand the situation. So, you pay into an insurance plan for ten years and now, they take the money, run away, and flip you the bird over their shoulder on the way out. That's what you get when you go "cheap" on insurance coverage, in Panama or anywhere else.

Be A Miracle Worker: Many of you already know that Kevin Bradley is both an insurance salesman and one of my best friends here in Panama. Practically everything I know about the insurance industry I learned from him. Kevin has to be very careful about what he says because as a broker he is in the position of "middle man" with the customers on one hand, and the insurance companies on the other. However, he tells me stories of people who come to Panama with a whole string of pre-existing medical conditions, like a 65 year old man with a history of heart attacks, diabetes, who has been smoking for more than 40 years. The simple answer is - in most cases that person is simply "not insurable" practically at any price. The insurance companies want to see doctor's reports, and they will exclude all or most of the preexisting conditions for a number of years. Of course, the customer wants Kevin to come up with a mystical and magical comprehensive health insurance package that covers everything, instantly, for free or very cheap. It's simply not out there. So either "you get what you pay for" or "they won't sell you coverage, practically at any price."

Stable, Respected, Rock Solid: I suspect that now after the collapse of British American things like "stability" and "reliability" will factor more into people's decisions on what health insurance they will buy - much more than they did in the past. The basic premise behind insurance coverage is that you pay into the group pool when you are healthy and you don't need it, so that later when you really do need it your medical bills are paid for by those who are healthy. It does you absolutely no good whatsoever to pay into a plan for many years, only to have that plan evaporate from under your feet as you get closer to the time when you might really need it. There are any number of insurance options and companies available in Panama - practically everyone has some kind of insurance coverage. And of course I would recommend that you contact my good friend Kevin Bradley because he can steer you towards the kind of coverage that best fits your situation. Shameless promotion for a good friend? You betcha. I've seen him respond to traffic accidents in the middle of a heavy downpour, go to the hospital to check in on a client who's about to have an operation, and basically "be there" for his clients and customers. He has developed a stellar reputation over 40 years in the business- and you'll never catch me ever saying a bad word about him. There are few people in this country that have earned my respect and unquestioning allegiance - as a result of their actions when it matters most - and as a matter of fact I can count them on one hand. Kevin is at the top of that list. So if you need insurance for any reason I have a very short list of answers and it always sounds like "call Kevin Bradley."

I'm Sorry You Got Screwed: If you find yourself without health insurance coverage this morning thanks to the British American meltdown, well then I'm sorry to hear about that. I hope you can find an effective solution to your insurance problem. My advice - take care of it sooner rather than later. Also, call Kevin. I don't know how many of those 10,000 people who lost their coverage with British American are members of the English speaking expatriate community, but I know there are some.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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