Recently, I made the short drive to David (the largest city in western Panama, a 30-minute drive south of Boquete) to have my eyes examined for the first time since I moved here. In the US, I had gone to the ophthalmologist every six months, since I’d had both cataract and glaucoma surgery on my left eye about eight years ago. Since I’ve been in Panama more than two and a half years now, I figured it was time for a check-up.
I had lost my driving glasses a couple of years ago, and my prescription is about seven years out of date, so new eyewear was also on the agenda. Back then, I had a healthcare spending account with money I had to use by the end of that year, or lose it. So I bought three pairs of glasses – one for driving (with clip-on sunglasses), one for the computer (minimal distance correction and progressive bifocals), and one for crafts and reading (no distance correction). All told, this used up the $1000 or so that was in that account.
When my friend Terri learned I was going to see the eye doctor, she wanted to get an exam, too, so we made consecutive appointments. A friend had used this doctor for cataract surgery recently and was pleased with him, so I felt confident in his expertise. (Doctors are very well qualified here, and many of them have studied in the US, so the health care is generally top-notch.) The exam was thorough, and he gave us prescriptions for our new glasses. His office had a very cool piece of art on the wall.
I was pleasantly surprised at the cost of the eye exam – $50 (without insurance)! In the US, I always paid at least $100 per visit, even with my health insurance. Before we left, I asked the receptionist how much a pair of progressive bifocal glasses would be, using my existing frames. She quoted me $150, which I thought was reasonable, considering the cost of my previous glasses. But we wanted to check out the prices and selection at the optical shop, so I didn’t order them at the doctor’s office.
I’m glad we went to the optical shop – they had a huge selection of frames! I asked them for a price for the same glasses using my frames, and the price there was $92. Quite a savings over buying from the doctor’s office! I ended up getting two other pairs – one was for driving (distance correction only, with transition lenses that darken when in the sun). The frames for these glasses were $45, and the total cost was $152. The other pair was for reading, and these frames were only $25, with a total cost of $65.
So, for a little over $300, I got another three pairs of glasses, instead of the $1000 I had spent in the US – without using insurance. Quite a bargain, I think!
And, yes – I can see clearly now!