Finances are different here

Mark read yesterday that the minimum wage in Panama was raised but wow, it’s tough to figure out what that means here. Apparently, there are different “minimums” based on what sector of industry you are in, agricultural or professional, and there are stratas of pay even within those categories.  But, a help wanted sign at the grocery store, proclaiming a wage of $1.74 an hour gives some indication of how low “minimum” can be.

Living on $13.92 a day seems like a challenge, even in Panama, no matter how frugal you are, and that was something like a 15% increase over last year’s minimum wage.  Cost of living over the last year has risen 6%, as has inflation, and many articles that I read blame the gringos for that. We have more money to spend, gringo pricing goes into effect, and store owners/service providers don’t necessarily lower those prices when the locals want to purchase something.

It appears that the price of a root canal (molar) is one thing that’s increased.  I thought I was going to need one, looked online for local dentists who have been recommended, and saw one in town, Doctora Monica, who came up frequently as an excellent care provider.  Costs quoted from those who have seen her in the last year were around $120 for a root canal (and that’s not her, that’s her bringing someone in from David), with the total cost including post, crown, etc., being $575.  I made an appointment, and was relieved to see that there was nothing “third world” about the office –modern, clean, professional, and Dr. M and the hygienist/receptionist seemed top notch. The only anomaly was the x-ray — no lead blanket placed over me, and neither of them stood behind a screen when the picture was taken.

The estimate I got from her was $250 for the specialist to do the root canal, with total cost being $650.  That seems cheaper than what I remember from the US, but honestly, I expected it to be even less. Because really, I don’t believe there’s any way that the locals pay even close to that if they need work done. Thank goodness the specialist came in and said no, no need yet. 🙂

So — how much does a root canal cost in the US?