Today is the day our current visas expire…Ordering health insurance…A convenient free online shared calendar app…

This is Bossy, who is pregnant and contemplating a drink from the swimming pool. There are only small amounts of chlorine in pools here to prevent the wildlife from illness.

All we can do about our visas expiring today is wait until we hear from South Africa immigration that our visas have been extended. In the interim, we’ve decided not to worry. We filed for the extensions within the time frame they require, so we should be fine.

Tomorrow, coinciding with our visa expirations, our rental car is due to be returned by 3:00 pm, 1500 hrs. Tom will drive to Nelspruit without me. I don’t particularly appreciate driving through the gorge halfway through the trip. Tom has no problem going on his own, and I can easily busy myself while he’s gone for three-plus hours in the afternoon.

We’ve arranged for him to pick up another car at a different dealer. We had to do a lot of research to find another affordable rental car. Since the onset of the pandemic, rental car prices have gone through the roof. Every 90 days, when we need a different contract, we struggle to find cars at reasonable prices, even here in South Africa, where prices had previously been affordable when we arrived in 2018.

Her pregnant status is easy to determine from these photos. It will be fun to see her bring her little one to visit us in the future. The gestation period for a kudu is about 240 days.

Staying in any location for extended periods always presents some challenges. Not having a home, our own car, and the insurance that goes with such ownership, on top of the problems due to finding and securing good health insurance. Today, I’ll be renewing my policy with SafeTrip from United Health Care.

With Tom’s excellent health, we aren’t insuring him right now. Once we’re on the move again, especially when some cruises require proof of health insurance which includes emergency evacuation, which makes sense to have when cruising as seniors, we’ll both be insured.

The policy has a limit of US $50,000 due to my age. I purchased the policy today for me beginning tomorrow, ending on April 8, the day we sail away. A few days before the cruise, I’ll sign up both Tom and me for a new 90-day policy. I always post a notice on our combined Cozi Calendar, a free family calendar app available online to keep track of the expiration dates.

Bossy with a few impalas in the background vying for pellets.

If you’re interested in an easy-to-use, conveniently shared calendar for travel or day-to-day appointments, this app is ideal easier to use than those offered by other providers. Here’s the link for the free app. You can choose to pay a fee for a slightly more sophisticated version, but we’ve never needed to do so.

When I awoke at 5:30, I stayed in bed reading news until finally, at 7:00, I bolted out of bed, ready to tackle the day. I decided to make dinner with the leftover ingredients from Friday night’s dinner party. There was a good-sized ziplock bag of cut-up chicken breasts which I’d frozen on Friday.

Last night, after returning from dinner at Jabula with friends, I took the bag of the cubed-cooked chicken out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator to find it fully defrosted this morning. With that and many leftover vegetables, I had enough ingredients to make three more low-carb pot pies. Tom will have one tonight and another tomorrow, while I’ll eat one tonight and have something different tomorrow, maybe tuna salad atop a big green salad that suits me just fine.

Impalas are quite shy around humans and scurry if we make the slightest sound or movement while they visit.

As for today, a lovely coolish day with tolerable humidity, I did three loads of laundry after prepping the meals and putting away all of the dry laundry on the rack. To increase my steps, I fold one item at a time and walk it to where the item belongs, Tom’s closet in our bedroom, my chest of drawers in the second bedroom, or towels in the kitchen. It’s amazing how many steps I can get in doing laundry this way. I make a point of walking with vigor to increase my heart rate.

That’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a delightful Sunday and a new week to come.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 23, 2021:

Love Bird's Nest
View of the veranda and pool at our house in the bush. For more, please click here.

Day #113 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Health Insurance during lockdown…

We loved seeing this flower growing in our yard in Campanario, Madeira, as it broke free from its pod.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from July 14, 2014, while in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal. See the link here for more details.

At the end of this month, our world travel health insurance policy expires. Generally, we purchase a 90-day policy from United Healthcare Global Safe Trip from this online site.

Before COVID-19, it was a breeze to choose our preferred policy and purchase it online, taking less than 10-minutes to complete. The documents arrive shortly after that, leaving us with 90 additional days of coverage.

Colorful steps, located at an elementary school in Campanario.

At the time, purchasing a year-long policy wasn’t possible when the requirement stated we had to return to the US every 90-days. However, the cost of the 90-day policy was no higher in shorter increments than an annual policy. It simply meant we’d have to visit the company’s site, enter some general information and pay online.

Fortunately, my previous pre-existing condition hasn’t been an issue, providing I haven’t had any recent additional treatment or significant medication changes within the prior 90-days. 

This house appeared to be unfinished, as frequently observed everywhere we’ve traveled.

As of this date, we have not made a single claim since we began purchasing these two individual policies (one for each of us) with this reliable company. Years ago, we had United Healthcare as our insurance provider for several years. All was handled well without incident, giving us confidence in using them for our world travel policy.

The only drawback to the policy is the fact that we are not covered when visiting the USA. Yes, it’s possible to purchase an add-on for short visits to the US, but the cost was and continues to be prohibitive. 

A stairway to a cave.

Thus, when we visit the US, we only have Medicare, Part A. We’re not willing to pay the additional INR 90426, US $1200, a month in the future for Part B plus supplements. 

If and when the time comes that we’ll return to the US to live, when we cannot continue to travel, we’ll sign up for full Medicare insurance and accompanying supplements. Once one commits to the complete Medicare package, you’re locked in for life. 

We haven’t wanted the burden of this significant expense while traveling the world, although some new supplemental insurance provides some coverage while traveling. Instead, we pay INR 31122, US $413 a month for both of us combined with an INR 15071, US $200 deductible. Additional features may be found online. 

We didn’t see any reason to enter this cave.

Currently, due to COVID-19, United Healthcare Safe Trip website doesn’t allow purchasing without calling the company or sending an email requesting information. They are quick to respond.

With the current policy, which we’d renewed while in India in April, expiring on July 28th, I was a little concerned that COVID-19 and the lack of international travel may mean they no longer offer this type of policy. A few days ago, I sent an email requesting we renew the policy for the next 180 days to see how they’d respond.

Most likely, kids in the area played in these caves over the years.

This morning I received an email from the company authorizing the new 180-day period, asking if they could charge our credit card on file. I couldn’t respond quickly enough, thrilled they’d provide us with an extended period. 

With over 2,000,000 US citizens losing their health insurance since the onset of COVID-19, for a variety of reasons, we didn’t want to take a chance and wait another day to find out if they’d renew us.

The pods growing in the garden finally bloomed, as shown in the above main photos.

During our last visit to the US from November 8, 2019, to January 30, 2020, (when we first arrived in India), I had a few medical appointments, all of which we paid out of pocket; one a visit to a cardiologist for a check-up and another to an urgent care facility when we both had an outrageous cough and flu that wouldn’t go away. 

Had that cough and fever occurred a month later, we may have thought it was COVID-19 when we both coughed for over six weeks. After sailing on a 15-night cruise from the UK to the US, we’ve often wondered if it was arriving on November 8th.

Gina, our property manager, explained that the number of cloudy days we’d experienced while there was unusual. 

Hopefully, we’ll continue to be able to avoid making claims on the policy. After our previous insurance company failed to pay for my emergency heart surgery in South Africa, which included four surgeries and follow-up, all of which we paid out of pocket, we now feel at ease working with a reliable company.

That’s it for today, folks! Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2019:

Cow grazing by the fence along our driveway in Connemara, Ireland. Please click here for more details.

Happy 4th of July to all our friends in the US…How do I get health insurance now?

Bay view on a sunny morning in Connemara.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Many Irish names begin with “Mac,” which translates to mean “son of.”

Firstly, let’s start today with wishes for a safe and festive July 4th weekend to all of our friends and family members in the US. With the holiday falling on a Thursday, it may be a four-day weekend for many workers.  
In our old lives, we celebrated the Independence Day of America with considerable enthusiasm. We had 300 small flags lining the lakeshore, which Tom had put in place the previous night; I baked an American flag sheet cake using strawberries and blueberries for the stars and stripes, and we often had a party for friends and family.
Today, here in Ireland, this is another lovely Thursday in Ireland. To celebrate the day, early this morning, we took a drive in the countryside, taking photos along the way.
We spotted lots of cattle on a morning drive but few sheep.

It is still a cool day at 10C, 59F, but the winds were light and the sky sunny. Now a few hours later, the clouds have rolled in, and there isn’t a spot of blue in the sky.  But the weather doesn’t keep us from reveling in the scenery we see out any window in our vacation home, constantly reminding us of this beautiful country.

As I had promised myself over a month ago, on the 4th of July, I’d be able to walk up the hill from the driveway on my own with no help from Tom. This morning, I gleefully accomplished this task and have decided to repeat it at least five times a week to build my stamina for walking up steep hills.

That is not to say my healing is complete. At a little over 4½ months from the bypass surgery and three months since the two-leg surgeries, I’d be deluding myself to say the healing process is complete. I still have pain and discomfort in my sternum and legs. I’ve read that some patient’s chests don’t heal for over a year.

Flowers blooming on the side of the road.

I don’t think it will take me a year, but I will progress considerably by the six-month mark. The wound in my left leg should be closed within a month. The other already-closed incisions are still tender to touch and feel painful at night in bed.  

The hematoma in my right thigh is starting to look a little better but requires a pillow between my legs at night to avoid keeping me awake from the pain. I’m hopeful, and when I think we’ll be on a cruise in 5½ weeks, I continue to exercise, try to get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet.  

While on the upcoming cruise from Amsterdam to Amsterdam, we have a very busy and active two-day small group tour to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m working hard to prepare myself for this tour. In the evenings, we’ll return to the ship for the night meeting with the van at the pier the following day.

The online translation of this monument was tricky to accomplish. Can any of our new readers in Ireland translate this for us?  If so, please send an email or comment at the end of the post.

Speaking of my health situation once again (apologies for the repetition), we’ve been busy the past several days searching for a health insurance policy that accepts pre-existing conditions. We weren’t hopeful.

And, not surprisingly, we cannot find insurance for me that would include anything to do with my heart and arteries. In the worst case, I may qualify 12 months after no further treatment was required. This 12-month period would begin on May 10, 2019, when I no longer needed any medical care.

We still have coverage with the company that isn’t paying our claims, and until they provide us with formal notification, everything else is covered. The rate is almost Euro 709,  US $800 a month, which doubled after the surgery.  

A bull in a field with lots of what appeared to be pregnant females.

There’s nothing we can do at this point, short of returning to live in the US to get Medicare, Part B, and a supplement (they don’t pay outside the US). We are not willing to do this at this time and forfeit this wonderful life.  We’re eager to take the risk.

You may think we’re nuts for not moving back to the US for this reason. But, we all have to make choices for our own lives. This works for us. Quality of life is an essential factor, motivating us to continue joyfully. I could make myself stressed thinking of this, but I choose not to. Instead, we’ll continue to dream and make plans for the future.

As mentioned above, may all of our readers in the US have a safe and fulfilling holiday weekend.  And may the remainder of our readers have an equally good day and upcoming weekend.

Photo from one year ago today, July 4, 2018:
This parade of elephants consisted of more than 30. For more photos, please click here.

The health insurance debacle…Not everything is as it seems…

What a face!

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
The Irish famine in the 1840s led to a population decline of two million people because of immigration and starvation.”

When we purchased our annual international health insurance policy from a company in the UK almost seven years ago, we’d hoped we’d never have to make a claim. The policy was issued for “major medical” only, meaning it covered hospital stays, surgeries with in-hospital treatment, and medication but not routine doctor appointments, urgent care facilities, or prescription drugs.

The co-pay for the hospitalization is Euro 1763, US $2000, per hospital admission. Since February this year, I’ve had three hospital admissions and four surgeries (two leg surgeries in one five-day hospital admission).  

At the time of the first admission, we paid out-of-pocket, the sum of ZAR 80000, US $5348, Euro 4715, for the estimated cost of the first visit to “theatre” for the angiogram including one overnight stay. At the time, the hospital’s billing department was diligently attempting to get our insurance company to pay, to no avail.

During the subsequent surgery, the cardiac bypass, the insurance company hedged for days but finally got their funding subsidiary to pay a portion of the hospital bill excluding all the doctor bills.  

Our insurance company was attempting to claim I had a pre-existing heart condition I hadn’t disclosed at the time of the application in 2012. This is simply not true.  

Sheep grazing on a hillside.

Sure I took a low dose hypertensive drug for a mild case of heredity high blood pressure, but I had disclosed this at the time of the application.  My blood pressure has been totally under control for the past 20 years, usually running around 110/68, certainly not a concern.

Besides, would we be traveling the world, often embarking on strenuous activities, if I had a known heart condition?  Hardly. We had no idea. We’d have taken immediate action rather than risk my having a life-threatening cardiac event had we known.

Then, on March 29, 2019, we visited the cardiothoracic surgeon for a routine post-cardiac bypass surgery exam at which point when he examined the condition of my legs, he immediately arranged an appointment with a plastic surgeon with excellent “wound care” experience.  

Within hours, I was immediately admitted to the hospital, having the first of two leg surgeries a few days apart.  But, before admission, we spent two very stressful hours, trying to get the insurance company to pay the required ZAR 130000, US $8690, Euro 7662. Here again, we had to pay out of pocket when the insurance company wouldn’t come through.

I spent hours on my phone attempting to get the insurance company to pay. Once again, they used all the excuses in the world to avoid paying. They said we should go ahead and pay out of pocket and later file claims, which we’ve done, again to no response.

Since we’d already paid the plastic surgeon’s bill out-of-pocket, in the above ZAR 130000, we had no outstanding bill with her. Plus, we’d paid the ZAR 80000 out-of-pocket for the first hospital admission to the cardiologist.

Two adult Connemara ponies and a youngster.

Remaining have been the bills for the anesthesiologist, surgical technicians, and most importantly, the cardiothoracic surgeon who’d performed the bypass surgery.

Need I say, dealing with the insurance company and their representatives to get these outstanding bills paid has been an outrageously stressful situation. When I was dealing with this, I could feel my heart pounding in dire frustration.

Why didn’t Tom handle this? We all have our specific skills. Negotiating and handling the endless flow of paperwork was simply not Tom’s forte, and it hardly felt like mine during recovery.

I recall being on the phone with the insurance company while I was in ICU for eight days and immediately upon returning to Marloth Park after the surgery when I was in rough shape for many weeks.

So, where are we now? With their refusal to pay they have claimed they are awaiting my medical records for the past 20 years which I have since verified are in their hands.

Now, bit by bit, bill by bill, we are negotiating with doctors requesting they accept a discounted payment from us. This is standard practice in the medical business when companies often deal with reduced fees for services, especially in the US for Medicare and Medicaid and national health insurance (NHS) as provided to citizens of the country of South Africa.

A beautiful sunset from the garden.

We’re almost done paying with one outstanding payment to negotiate, which we’ll hopefully resolve by tomorrow. At that point, we’ll submit a few more claims and wait and wait and wait…to see if the insurance company will ever reimburse us.

In the meantime, we’ve had no choice but to keep the policy in effect, although they doubled the premium after the surgery. No company will insure me other than Medicare in the US which I may have no choice but to re-instate once all of this is resolved.  

It is ill-advised to cancel the policy now until all of the claims are resolved or, we give up hoping to be reimbursed. While in the US in November, we’re considering signing me up for Medicare which doesn’t pay for any medical treatment outside the US but if I need non-emergency treatment, we can always fly back to the US for such treatment. If it’s an emergency outside the US…we’re in big trouble.

Many may say, “stop traveling and return to live in the US.” We have no interest in doing this. We have a lot of the world left to see and are not forfeiting the joy and happiness we continue to experience in our travels.  

If and when the time comes, we can no longer travel due to medical issues, we’ll decide at that time.  We now realize the delicate balance of life itself, more than ever, and how and why we should live it to the fullest.  

Many don’t get this decision but, we do, and in the long run, that’s all that matters. We’ll continue to update the progress on this frustrating situation as we continue. Right now, our focus is on healing, recovery, and putting all this stress behind us.

Have a pleasant day and evening wherever you may be.

Photo from one year ago today, June 9, 2018:

Water spouted out of his mouth after he took a big gulp of water. For more photos, please click here.

How much do we pay for health insurance?… Technology issues… Patience prevails…

Elephant topiary on the church’s grounds.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

We can’t take our eyes off these adorable tiny birds.
Early this morning, we were sighting of a hummingbird partaking of our sugar water.

Regardless of how far away we may travel from the US, there’s no escaping the responsibility of paperwork required for life in general and more related to our lifestyle of world travel.

With Tom’s 65th birthday fast approaching on December 23rd, it was time for him to waive Part B Medicare, which would result in an automatic deduction from Railroad Retirement for his monthly pension income if he didn’t handle it on time.

Pretty ceiling and chandeliers in the church.

Medicare doesn’t pay for medical care outside of the US (with a few exceptions, here and there) long ago; we purchased  “major medical” international insurance coverage through Healthcare International in the UK.

No more expensive annually than paying the required amount for Part B Medicare and a supplement, our plan doesn’t cover doctor visits. So in the past almost five years, we’ve spent very little for the few doctor office visits we’ve made, the most for physical exams and tests we had over two years ago in Trinity Beach, Australia.

Shrine on the grounds of Iglesia Catolica de Zarcero church in Zarcero Costa Rica.

In total, over this extended period, including the comprehensive exams in Australia for both of us, we haven’t spent more than US $2000 (CRC 1,150,510), averaging at US $400 (CRC 230,102) per year.

Our annual insurance payment to Healthcare International is US $4,000 (CRC 2,301,020) plus the average US $400 (CRC 230,102) for doctor visits, totals US $4400 (CRC 2,531,122) per year.

Faces in the shrubs.  Amazing.

The required payments for Medicare Part B plus a supplement plan, plus all the necessary co-pays, would ultimately be much higher than what we’re paying annually. But, of course, we hardly ever go to a doctor, reserving those for situations where we feel we have no alternative. Thus, it’s difficult to compare “apples to apples.”

As a result, Tom won’t be signing up for Medicare Part B, which required he contact Railroad Retirement (as opposed to Social Security) since he worked for the railroad for over 42 years.  Instead, Railroad retirement (and Medicare) require that the potential recipient complete a form requesting to waive Part B.  I’d done this almost five years ago when I was approaching 65.

More faces.

A few weeks ago, Tom called Railroad Retirement and requested the necessary documentation to sign to waive this option. Unfortunately, it took several weeks to arrive at our mailing service in Nevada, Maillink Plus.

When we receive snail mail at the mailing service, we’re sent an email message that snail mail has arrived. So we log into our account at their site and see who sent the mail but not its specific contents. At that point, we can request the mail be scanned at US $2 (CRC 1151) per page.

This spot may be used for weddings and other celebratory occasions.

Of course, receiving mail from governmental agencies may result in the necessity of having many pages scanned to get to the page(s) were looking for, as was the case here. 

Once the document is scanned (always within hours except for Sundays), we can view or print the copy (if we have access to a printer), which we do here in Costa Rica in this fine villa. Since the document required completion with a signature, printing it was a necessity. We also needed to print the cover letter, which included coding and secure ID numbers. Thus, we ended up with two pages to print.

Not every topiary was indicative of a specific animal or item but, it is still interesting.

Once Tom completed the form, the next step was to get the two pages back to Railroad Retirement. Unfortunately, they don’t accept email for such conditions. That means we’d have to pay for a taxi to go to a post office, pay the postage to the US and also plan it could take upwards of a month to arrive.

But not for us! Our mailing service will handle that for about another US $2 (CRC 1151), preparing an envelope with our return address and a stamp. Then, all we’d have to do is scan the two pages and email both of them to the mailing service. 

Colorful stonework on a wall near the entrance to the church.

This morning I printed the two pages, after which Tom filled out the form, handing them back to me to scan and email. Sound easy, eh? Not so much. For some goofy reason, the software I’d downloaded for the new Brother Scanner we’d purchased from Amazon and received while in Nevada wasn’t working.

The application I needed and had used extensively when I’d done tons of scanning while in Nevada had somehow disappeared from my laptop, nor could we find the actual installation disk I’d used at the time to install it. 

Rainy day view from the church entrance to the topiary.

Sure, I could go online to Brother and install what I needed to complete the process, but I was bound and determined to figure out a solution to avoid doing this. Furthermore, I’d yet to start today’s post and didn’t want to spend an hour fooling around with an install.

Patience was not high on my priority list, but a determination was often the case. After about an hour, I figured out a workaround and got the documents to scan and into my email. Finally, I prepared the email message to Maillink, which they’ll receive and process tomorrow (Monday), confirming that the task has been completed.

Painting of Jesus in the interior of the church.

Today, while Tom watches the Minnesota Vikings game, I’ll work on installing the software if we have a good enough signal for streaming the game and performing a download. We shall see.

Have a wonderful Sunday or Monday wherever you may be in the world.

Photo from one year ago today, September 24, 2016:

In Sumbersari Bali, we met neighbors who invited us for a visit. This is their infinity pool. For more photos of their lovely property, please click here.

What are the benefits of our international health insurance?…

On a cloudy day, beachgoers still took advantage of local beaches.

We’ve written about international health insurance in past posts. As we acquire more worldwide readers including an increased number of ex-pats and baby boomers retiring and deciding to travel long term, we felt it was time to review this once again, especially in light of yesterday’s annual premium payment.

We paid NZ $5855, US $3745 for the upcoming 12 month period. This insurance doesn’t cover us while in the US. I’m not quite certain, why not, but with little time spent in the US during these past 40 months, with only a few months to be spent in the US upcoming in the summer of 2017, we aren’t worried about it at this juncture.

We drove to Wairau stream to check out the scenery.

Tom will continue to be covered by the health insurance from his prior work until he turns 65 in December 2017. In the interim, we’ve both been covered by this annual ex-pat policy with Healthcare International.

What happened to Medicare for me when I turned 65 almost three years ago? Every US citizen is entitled to Plan A which covers hospitalization in part. See here for details.

Why didn’t we just go with Part A for me?  Simple answer: It doesn’t provide coverage outside the US in most instances. Plus, monthly payment for Plan B is required at NZ $158, US $105.  See here for details. 

Most beaches in this area are rocky, but this popular location is preferred by many surfers and sunbathers.

As a result of this monthly expense, useless in our case, while traveling the world long term, we opted out of Part B by signing a waiver document explaining why we weren’t willing to pay. There are penalties for opting out which will result in a higher premium should we decide to activate it at some point. There again, we aren’t concerned about penalties at this point.

Plus, most Medicare recipients add a “supplemental policy” to cover some deductibles and ancillary costs, here again, an unnecessary expense for us considering none of these would apply to our out-of-the US needs. Had we included these, we’d have been paying as much “out of pocket” annually as we’re currently paying for our annual policy with Healthcare International.

Surfing and kayaking are popular in both New Zealand and Australia.

These drastic measures would not make any sense for those living in the US or US territories where Medicare would pay. Such action is only beneficial for those with very good health who don’t visit doctors frequently, take a lot of medication, and often have medical tests and treatments, since none of these are covered by our current policy.

If we visit a doctor, regardless of the reason, we pay out of pocket as we do for my few prescriptions. Such payments have proven to be approximately 25% of the cost for the same services in the US in most countries as we experienced in our 2015 medical exams and tests in Australia.

This is a first for us, spotting a tractor hauling a boat along the beach.

Our situation is unique and does not apply to most travelers nor to most Medicare recipients in the US. Even those US citizens embarking on a one-year trip outside the US are best to keep their existing insurance (including Medicare Part B and supplement) in place, adding emergency travel insurance as an adjunct.

Our policy with Healthcare International includes coverage for both of us for hospitalization with NZ $3014, US $2000 deductible per hospital stay, emergency evacuation, and bereavement expenses for travel in the event of death of an immediate family member only (sibling, child, parent) covering up to NZ $7536, US $5000 in travel expenses. 

We were intrigued by the stone roof on this oceanfront home.

This benefit is only available for those who are the physical relative of the deceased family member.  In other words, if one of Tom’s family members passes away, the benefit would cover his costs to return to the US, not mine, and so on.

Our decision to choose this type of policy was wrought with considerable research and consideration over an extended period. Each year we’ve researched other options but, to date, this plan makes the most sense for our needs and appears to be the most cost-effective.

  Many homes in New Zealand have metal roofs helping maintain warmth in the cooler winter season reducing heating costs. For the warmer sunny days, as we’ve experienced, it gets hot indoors requiring the opening of screen-less doors and windows.

Of course, when we soon file our taxes for 2015, we must provide “proof of insurance” to avoid paying penalties to the US government. I have a copy in our tax prep file which we’ll soon forward to our accountant along with other pertinent documents.

This can be confusing. Finally, we feel we have a handle on it although it took time to decipher the various options.  If any of our readers have questions, most of the links we’ve provided here will assist you. If you have questions we can answer please post a comment at the bottom of this post and we’ll be happy to answer to the best of our ability and/or provide you with resources to aid in your decision.

Energy efficiency is exercised by most residents in New Zealand from what we’ve seen thus far.

We realize this topic is dry and relatively boring especially for those who aren’t living outside the US for the long term.  For those in other countries, we can only suggest you contact your home insurance, your government-provided insurance, and Healthcare International or another such company. Most likely they’ll be able to assist you based on benefits you may currently have available.

We’re staying in today watching the political caucuses in New Hampshire, USA which is on TV during the day here based on the time difference, although it’s Wednesday here in lovely New Zealand.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 10, 2015:

One year ago, this albatross is sitting on an egg. Both the male and female sit on the nest, the other heading out to sea for food. For more details and map of our location while in Kauai, please click here.

Paying for health insurance from abroad…Signing documents online?…A credit card compromised again!

View from our area.

I love technology. Without it, our lives would be much more complicated. As an example, our health insurance policy’s annual single premium is due on March 1, 2016, and we’re able to sign online and provide credit card information as securely as possible. The ability to sign online has been available for approximately the past 10 years but many have never used it and are hesitant to do so. Today’s post may ease your mind.

Preferring to pay the insurance bill a bit early, this morning I worked on sending the payment. A few days ago we destroyed the credit card that Healthcare International had on file for us when we received a notice that charges were made on the card in Texas, USA.

Country view.

We’d hardly purchased fuel and spent NZ $281, US $186 at a Walmart store in Houston, Texas. Every few days, I check all of our credit cards online to ensure everything is accurate without any suspicious charges.

As it turned out, on a day I hadn’t checked, I received an email from the credit card company inquiring as to suspicious charges on the card. Their files indicate we’re in New Zealand at this time and it was unlikely we’d flown to Houston overnight to shop at Walmart.

We keep “travel notifications” updated for each of the credit cards we use, requiring updating every 60 days. To remind me to do so, I have it marked on my online calendar with a pop-up reminder. When we first began traveling, we were annoyed with having to log the travel notifications on the credit card company’s online site for every country we’ll be visiting over the next 60 days. 

View of downtown New Plymouth.

Now, with our third incident of fraud in the past 40 months, we understand the benefit and necessity of updating these notifications. Also, updating the travel notification prevents a “decline” at the register when the card’s system doesn’t recognize the current location for which the charges are attempted.

In each case, a new card has been sent to us wherever we may be at the time. The credit card company pays the fees to mail it. Since we don’t need the card quickly with other cards we can use in the interim, we don’t incur any overnight shipping fees. 

Credit card companies may charge when a new card is shipped overnight internationally.Thus, we didn’t request an overnight shipment when the fees can easily top NZ $151, US $100. The new card will arrive here at the farm in NZ within three weeks.

Trees along the rocky shore in the town.

When a credit card is compromised, in some cases the credit card company will pick up the fraud when most theft systems charge $1 as a test to see if the card will work. Once that works, the process of making additional illegal charges begins which may result in thousands of dollars in charges.

It’s imperative for the customer to check their charges on a regular basis and report any suspicious charges immediately and report them promptly. If the charges are made in your home country while you’re residing in your home country, these charges are all the more difficult for the credit card company to catch. You may be using the card while on a local weekend away.

For those outside their home country, this is all the more likely to occur when devices are set up at fuel stations, restaurants, shops, and other establishments where one uses a card. 

Lava rock along the shoreline.

Note:  You will not be charged for any of the unauthorized (illegal) charges providing that you notify the company in a timely manner. Waiting months to do so could result in the customer’s responsibility for the charges.

The new “computer chips” offer no protection in avoiding theft. In each case we’ve experienced theft, we always had the card in our possession. Often, it isn’t the physical card that is compromised, only the number

The rocky beach in New Plymouth.

Now, on to our annual health insurance bill…Each year, when the annual premium is due,  Healthcare International (in the UK) has used the credit card on file to pay our bill. 

I’d contacted them by email asking for the last four digits on the card they had on file to pay our premium.  When the email arrived this morning with the information, I realized it was the “stolen” card that had been canceled a few days ago.

Sugarloaf in downtown New Plymouth.

It’s important to avoid sending a credit card number, social security number, or any other pertinent ID information via email without special security measures in place. Email isn’t secure as much as one may assume. Scammers have equipment breezing through email worldwide attempting to “pick up” such information for illegal purposes. 

Luckily modern technology has provided for secure options but only when certain the message you’ve received is valid from the source you requested. This can be tricky. If uncertain, contact the company on an approved phone number and provide the information in that manner.

Mount Taranaki after more snow on a cool day.

Our bill for the upcoming year including air ambulance, major medical, and other benefits is NZ $5855, US $3745. Luckily, this year, Healthcare International provided an app via Adobe ID to securely assist in entering a new credit card number and to be able to accept an online signature. 

Familiar with this app which we’ve used in the past when an online signature is required, I was comfortable using it again to send via a secure link the app easily provided to be sent by email to Healthcare International.

Yesterday, we posted a photo with eight baby alpacas. This morning, we took this photo with nine babies, although there appears to be eight. Can you find the ninth?

It seems as if I’m contradicting myself by sending this information by email. However, Adobe ID is as secure as any other “secure” site but, let’s face it, any website can be compromised and data were stolen. I completed the necessary information and forwarded it to Healthcare International via a “secure” email through their account with Adobe.

The reason I bring up credit card fraud and this insurance bill together is simple. Paying this amount of money using a credit card is safe for the consumer if any fraud is reported promptly. We were not responsible for any portion of the illegal charges on our credit card, nor would we be for future such charges. This gives us peace of mind.

A moment later a head plopped down on a playmate.

Having one’s identity stolen is another entirely different matter which we won’t get into here today.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the benefits of the policy along with any of the negative aspects of buying health insurance while traveling for extended periods when one doesn’t have other health insurance or has limited coverage outside their home country, as is in our case.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2015:

The residents of Hawaiian are very proud of their love and preservation of wildlife and their land.  For more photos, please click here.

Glitches, resolutions and more health insurance research…

We knew there would be glitches.  We’ve planned for them.  We’ve built emergency funds into our budget.  And here we are, not even out the door and a glitch occurs. Oh.

As we approached the 90 day sail date of our first cruise on the Celebrity Century on January 3, 2013 , our final payment was due.  This first cruise was more expensive than a number of our other cruises but Tom wanted to see the Panama Canal during its state of construction and this was a perfect time.

We justified the expense with it providing us with not only 15 days of cruising to the Panama Canal, but a final destination of Fort Lauderdale, leaving us in place to board yet another ship for our cruise to Belize.  Perfect!

My calendar marked for this upcoming balance due of $4645 after having paid a $900 deposit some months ago, I was prepared to pay in full this past Wednesday.  

In an effort to keep as much as possible of our credit cards free of any large balances, I paid using an American Express card (getting points) and our debit card (no points).  Alas, an error was made by Celebrity’s processing department and my debit card was charged an additional $2400 over and above the amount I had authorized.  

As a result, we had paid $7945 for a $5545 cruise. I don’t know about you, but unless a situation such as this is remedied in a matter of minutes, I can get a little testy, not so much rude as stern and extraordinarily persistent. Yes, very persistent.  

I kept reminding myself, after an hour of the phone whereby the cruise line could not detect that they overcharged us, to stay calm. Our bank account said otherwise.  We had expected these situations to occur.  Its all part of the process.

With no resolution, I called our bank, filed a claim after producing evidence of all the payments to prove we had overpaid. Jean, a very helpful banker was clearly willing to assist without hesitation.  

She not only hadn’t filed the claim upon email receipt of my documentation, (proving cost of the cruise and all payments, including that which was made with American Express), she put the $2400 (the bank’s money!) into our account  cover the difference. I had some bill pay payments in the process and had not prepared my checking account for this unexpected amount.  Sure, I could have transferred funds to cover this, but when they offered, I jumped all over it.

After more email communication with Celebrity the refund appeared this morning, much to my relief. Immediately I sent the bank an email requesting that they drop the claim and take back their temporary $2400. Whew!  

I knew it would eventually be resolved.  However, I didn’t want to spend valuable mental time these next crucial days (we move out in 20 days for the estate sale) thinking about this a possible 10 day period, the usual time to dispute a claim.  Thank you, Jean.  Thank you, bank.  Giving her this blog address, I hope she reads this post and knows how grateful we are.  

I always try to insulate Tom from these situations.  He works. I’m retired and besides, I must admit, I kind of enjoy the satisfaction of getting issues resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.  No voice-raising, no name calling, no threatening and thus diplomacy prevails when backed by solid evidence. Love it!

In the past several days a bit of angst was “wafting” (love that word) around my brain that maybe, just maybe, we could get a better price on a worldwide health insurance policy for me when Medicare will kick in on my birthday next February. The thought of paying $432 plus $107 for Medicare makes me cringe, especially when Medicare doesn’t cover me outside the US. 

After contacting no less than a dozen companies over the past week I stumbled across what proved to be a delightful experience; email and phone communication with Gerry Mould of April Medibroker Ltd in the UK.  Gerry Mould took the time to prepare a substantial list of options for me (Tom is five years younger than I and will have a retiree policy through his company until he goes on Medicare in 2017) and also spent considerable time on the phone with me from the UK, answering many questions regarding our somewhat unique situation.  

Had we been able to acquire an address outside the US (their company is not licensed in the US), we would have been able to apply for a policy saving us over $2000 a year for coverage equal to or better than that which we have been planning with the State Farm supplement that also provides international coverage.  

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to work with Gerry Mould at this time. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll be considered official “expats” and actually have that foreign address.  In the interim, I’ve left a message for our State Farm agent to review my health insurance quote when he returns from a convention next week.  Perhaps, we can find a less costly option. I’ll report back.

Now, I am off to see if i can complete the transaction on the sale of my car!  In either case, I will report back. With possibly no mode of transportation during the day, I’ll spend my time getting back to the issues at hand…completing our packing. 

I can’t wait to be on the road on our way to Scottsdale after all the tearful goodbyes, the finalization of the sale on the house, the move to a friend’s house for a week during the sale, the planning of Tom’s retirement party with his co-workers and family, the completion of the packing of Tom’s bags, working on the redesign of this blog with the web designers, filling the year’s worth of prescriptions, attending the neighborhood party our friend Sue is having for us next weekend and all the tearful goodbyes.  Ah, yes, all the tearful goodbyes.

Healthcare while traveling the world…What type of insurance pays abroad?…Check out the precious photo from one year ago!…

A Cattle Egret we spotted while driving.

It’s been a long time since we’ve written about our health insurance, a relatively boring topic as far as I’m concerned. Nonetheless, it’s a topic we must address at least once a year.

A drove along a beach road at low tide.

People we meet often ask about the type of health insurance we have and how it works when we’re traveling the world. Three years ago when we began to plan our travels, we asked these very same questions:

1.  Will Medicare pay for my medical expenses while aboard? NO
2.  Will Tom’s health insurance, still in effect until he’s 65 (he’s 62 now), cover him outside the US? YES
3.  Are any prescriptions covered? NO
4.  Are doctors visits covered? NO FOR EITHER OF US.

Many sunbathers are out on cloudy days.

I’m reminded of these questions this morning when I called the UK from which our travel insurance generates (calling at only $.023 a minute on Skype) to give them a new credit card number (an old card number was stolen and since replaced while we were on the Big Island) instructing them to go ahead and charge the annual US $3462 due at the end of this month for the policy that covers both of us.

Why have coverage for both of us when Tom already has insurance?  His insurance doesn’t include emergency evacuation.  Our combined policy with Healthcare International covers emergency evacuation for both of us and the cost for either of us to travel back to the US in the event of the death of an immediate family member (up to $5000).

Snorkeling on a sunny day.

When I turned 65 in February 2013, I qualified for Medicare and now have a Medicare card for Part A which only covers a portion of major medical. Since Medicare doesn’t pay while outside the US, I waived Part B (via a document to the US govt.) and also the purchase of a supplement. Why pay $250 a month (for Part B and a supplement) for insurance we can’t use while we’re traveling? 

With a plan to be outside the US for years to come, health providing, and with little need for doctor visits at this time (neither of us has visited a doctor in 26 months) it made no sense to pay for anything other than major medical and travel insurance for me.

Each night we wander across the street to check out the whales and the waning sun.

In actuality, Tom is double insured for major medical when he joined me in the policy for the emergency evacuation and family member death features which includes major medical (hospital stays). 

If and when we need to visit a doctor in her/his office, we’ll happily pay out of our pocket when costs in most countries are considerably less than in the US. Many would say this plan is foolhardy. For us and our unique circumstances, it makes the most sense financially and otherwise.

The trek down to the beach across the street from us is treacherous.

Of course, the policy with Healthcare International covers 100% of any hospital stays including surgeries and other procedures if necessary. In other words, as referred to in the US, we have “major medical” coverage, all we feel we need at this time. 

In 10 years, we may feel differently but for now, this plan works for us. It may not work for others, if they frequently visit their doctor for prescriptions and medical checks.

Healthcare International has a wide array of other policies including more comprehensive coverage that includes doctor visits but for us, at this time, it is unnecessary. 

A solitary orange leaf amongst green other leaves.

Tom no longer takes any prescriptions and I take only a few which I purchase online from BBB approved ProgressiveRX buying one year’s worth at a time, paying out of our pocket without the use of any insurance. The total annual cost for these three meds is under US $500, less than we previously paid for co-pays for these same drugs. Go figure.

If any of our readers have further questions regarding our insurance please feel free to click the included links, post a comment at the end of today’s post or ask us a question via our email posted on our site at the top of the page, on the right side. We’ll answer your questions within 24 hours at most.

It’s always easy to find a beach at the end of any road heading in any direction.

This can be a complicated topic. For us, we like to keep it simple, like everything else in our lives when possible.  In all probability, we may be traveling for the remainder of our lives. Should we settle somewhere if health requires, we’ll address the issue at the time. In the interim, while continually on the move, we’re comfortable and at ease with our current solutions.

Today, we’re off for our lunch date at the Westin Hotel in Princeville with Elaine and Richard where we’ll take more photos of the exquisite luxury resort and perhaps of few of ourselves while we languish in delightful conversation with our new friends.

Have a fabulous Friday!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, February 6, 2014:

Its hard to believe it was a year ago that we took this photo of a Vervet Monkey and her baby as they looked down at us while we sat on the veranda at Khaya Umdani. What an amazing start to a day. We love the baby’s super thin pinkish ear which eventually will be close to the head. For more photos from that date, please click here.

So you want National Healthcare???…Humm…Prescription hell..

Poldark Locations
A map illustrating the various locations in Cornwall where the TV series Poldark is filmed.

Fascinating Fact of the Day Bodmin Moor, Cornwall:
The Moor contains about 500 farm holdings with around 10,000 beef cows, 55,000 breeding ewes and 1,000 horses and ponies. Most of the moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has been officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as part of Cornwall AONB.”

Soon, once the laundry is done and we’re done here, we’re heading to Bodmin Moor to check out the scenery, which we’ve heard about over and over again. Also, we’ve been aware that some of the scenes from the British TV series Poldark (another favorite of ours) were filmed in the Bodmin Moors. Tomorrow, our final day in St. Teath, Bodmin, we’ll post photos from the moor.

We’d hoped to have gone to Bodmin Moor yesterday, but with other immediate tasks on hand, as you’ll see below, we postponed it until today. Fortunately, it’s sunny again today, which motivates us to continue with our plans.

In the interim, we have an important story to share, especially for those readers who have desired a national healthcare service in their country. It may not be all that it’s “cracked up” to be, after all, based on comments we’ve heard over the years from our British friends and others.
A little love among the pygmy goats.
 Many have the perception that such a national service is “free.” That’s hardly the case.  The citizens pay for the cost via taxes imposed on many products, services, and daily living expenses.  Tourists pay VAT taxes and taxes on food, dining out, tours, housing, and more.
“The National Health Service is the publicly funded national healthcare system for England and one of the four National Health Services for each constituent country of the United Kingdom. It is the largest single-payer healthcare system in the world.”
Now, we have a personal example of sharing about the National Healthcare Service in England. Recently, I noticed that one of the two medications I take for hypertension is running low. I thought I had plenty more in our luggage, but alas, I searched through everything and couldn’t find it.
The goats get along well with the chickens that wander into their paddock.
I wouldn’t doubt that I made an error and missed refilling the one during the worst of my recovery when I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I am now. I surprised myself that I didn’t screw up more during that period!  

In looking back at prior posts, I realized I started up again precisely two weeks after the cardiac bypass surgery. Here’s the link to that day. And, I didn’t miss a beat (no pun intended) when I returned to the hospital for the two-leg surgeries a few days apart. Here’s the link to the story I wrote when I returned to the hospital for five days for the leg surgeries.

As a result, I’m not beating myself up for missing the refilling of the one prescription. I just needed to figure out how to get it filled at a local pharmacy without going through a big hassle. I was overly optimistic.
Goat love standing on the highest structure wherever they may be.
First, we tried several pharmacies in several small villages. Pharmacists can sell a one or two-month dose of any non-narcotic medication to a customer on an emergency basis. The drug I needed was non-narcotic.  
I had enough medication to last 14 days, so I assumed I had plenty of time to figure this out.  The first pharmacist in the town of Camelford agreed to refill it on an emergency basis if I could provide proof that the medication was prescribed for me.Since I had enough to last two weeks, I returned with “the proof” a week later, and he flat out refused to refill the medication! He said if it were an emergency, I wouldn’t have waited a week to bring him the proof. He stated I needed to see a doctor for a new prescription. Oh, good grief. I must admit I stormed out the door in a huff, totally unlike me to do.
This cutie posed for a photo.
I didn’t want to see a doctor. We’d heard how hard it was to get an appointment with a GP and, I didn’t want to have to go through everything with a doctor I’d never see again. We tried a few more pharmacies to no avail, even with the proof in hand.

From there, we tried a few more pharmacies again without any luck. Then, the fun began! We resigned ourselves to the reality that a doctor’s appointment was necessary.

There are several doctors in the various small towns around us. I called every one of these and was told they had no openings, now or shortly.  There was nothing they could do.  

My only solution would be to go to the hospital, which would take hours and cost quite a bit for a US $20 prescription.  In doing so, they may have required me to go through several unnecessary tests to be given the prescription.
The next day I asked property owner Lorraine what she’d suggest I do. She proceeded to tell me about dialing 111, not 999 (an emergency number comparable to 911 in the US). She felt by calling this “helpline,” they’d figure out a solution.
Immediately, I called 111, and after a barrage of questions, they gave me two numbers to reach the following day at 8:30 am and explained I had registered my request with 111 and I’d be given priority consideration in getting a 5-minute doctor appointment.

At 8:30 yesterday morning, I called the numbers I was given and still was given the run around that no appointment was available. I persisted, explaining I only needed a five-minute appointment, and I didn’t want to re-contact 111 for further instructions.  

As it turns out, patients are required to be given priority treatment when they’ve gone through 111. Finally, one of two receptionists relented and booked me in for a 3:50 pm appointment yesterday, requiring us to arrive at 3:30 to complete the paperwork. No problem.  

We were there 30 minutes earlier than required, and after the five-minute appointment with an elderly doctor, we walked out the door with the prescription in hand.

We wondered what would have transpired if I hadn’t been so persistent. We’ve heard stories of citizens dying from their inability in getting urgent doctor appointments as explained in this article as shown below:

“Patients were dying on NHS waiting lists ‘surges by 10,000.’

The number of patients dying while waiting for treatment has increased by over 10,000, according to reports.

A freedom of information request to NHS Trusts, carried out by the Express, revealed that the number of patients dying while on a waiting list rose from 18,876 in 2012/13 to 29,553 in 2017/18.

The information request also saw that there was an increase of more than 50% across dozens of NHS Trusts. But this number could be higher, as only half (67 of 135) of the NHS Trusts responded, the paper reported.

One NHS trust in the South-west saw that the number of people who died on a waiting list rose by 250% – from 652 in 2012/13 to 2,289 in 2017/18.

At the same time, a North-west NHS Trust reported that its figure had doubled from 147 to 305, while one in the East of England found it had increased from 392 to 577.  This comes as the latest figures from NHS England saw that only 87.8% of patients are seen within 18 weeks, below the 92% target.

And as of June this year, there were 4.11m people on waiting lists, 280,000 more than in June last year, representing a 60% increase since June 2010.

Having seen this situation first hand and having heard about it from many UK residents, we are convinced this type of system is seriously flawed both in the UK, Canada, and many other countries.  

No, we weren’t charged for the doctor’s appointment, which we happily offered to pay but were refused. Why are taxpayers paying for tourist’s medical needs?  Are tourists coming here and staying a few months to jump on the “free service?”

When we get the prescription filled in the next few days, we will be charged but were told the price will be five times more than we’ve paid in the past. Maybe, in essence, we’re paying after all with the outrageous cost of the prescriptions themselves.

Of course, we’re no experts on healthcare, and the US system is also seriously flawed as it is in many countries throughout the world. We continue to live with the reality that our international insurance failed us in South Africa, and we had to pay the enormous bill out of pocket.

We learn as we go.  

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with our final post from the Tredarupp Holiday Cottages and begin making our way toward Witheridge, a two-hour drive.

May today be a learning day for you, with a good outcome. Be well.
Photo from one year ago today, September 19, 2018:
Based on our position in the line-up of vehicles, our photo-taking advantage was limited. For more photos, please click here.