Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Medical Tourism

            Medical Tourism
   Or… how to enjoy a free trip to Ecuador 
Our first trip to the Andes included Quito and Cuenca in June 2010. We fell in love with Cuenca’s charming people, old world architecture and gentle climate. We had learned to reimburse our travel costs during previous trips to Montevideo, Uruguay. Bloggers were also a prolific source of information.
Like many self employed folks we saved premiums by having a $5,000 deductible on our U S Blue Cross coverage and using a HSA for tax deductible reimbursements. So we were out-of-pocket on most medical, dental and vision expenses. Now let’s see how many interesting experiments we can complete in a few days.
                                              Ecuador Cost          USA approx.        
 1 .Vision exams-both of us           $20 x 2 = $40                          $  150 
2. Bi-focal lenses –Gary only                          54                               150
3. Specialist office visit                  $ 25 x 2 = 50                               400
4. Bone density Scan-GE                   40 x 2 = 80  Just like at home  240
5. Ultra Sound – neck                                      36                              150
6. Lab CBC, calcium, parathyroid, Vit D         52     All is well          200+
7. Meds                                              11 x 2 = 22                                80
8. Massage – ahhh                            15 X 2 = 30   Discount for 2     130
9. Manicure (why not?)                      5 x 2 = 10                                 30
10.Haircut – Gary (a risk?)                               5    Looks great!         15
                Totals                $ 329  Saving covers airfare  $1,545  

We met some very interesting and friendly locals.  And delighted in many delicioso meals. 
 And we learned of their culture. Yes, you could enjoy similar savings in many countries in Latin America or Asia.
       Don’t just be a tourist… Be medical (and cultural) tourist!     
                                                                            Rejoicing,   Gary

Monday, September 12, 2011

Health Insurance - Coopera

                  Health Insurance – Part III
Medical care in Cuenca is excellent.  Sue and I have enjoyed friendly professional care from specialists, dentists, opticians, labs, and pharmacies. A trip to the doctor also no longer requires a degree in medical billing and coding to understand insurance coverage. And all at a fraction of costs in the US.    But, we are always looking for new ideas and further savings.
Our Coopera membership gave us excellent fresh organic fruits and veggies as described in our December blog. They also function as a credit union and now offer a health plan. So, in June we signed up for the health plan for $2.62 monthly drawn from our account. No handouts or colorful brochures were available, so we’ll figure it out later. We have three month waiting periods for many services, so when the student is ready…an English speaking guide will appear.
Gringo grape vine tells us about Cuenca Referral Network (dot com), so we sign up as associate members. Thanks, Brian. Their site provides a link to Coopera’s. Can this be true?
Office visits for routine medical are two bucks.    Ditto dental. Reimbursement of medical costs (up to $400), lab and drugs is at 80%. Yes, even hospital care…after four  monthly payments of the grand sum of $2.62. There is only one way to know if this is true and functional...
 So, off we go to the tiny town of San Joaquin, located half a mile east of the largest Coopera market. The road is under total reconstruction, so a short walk from the highway is required.    TA DA!      Hidden away off the dirt path is a modern beautifully landscaped traditional white building with tile roof. Financial offices are in front; medical offices are behind the rear courtyard. Juan speaks excellent English and  helped me with a 10.5% CD.  Dr Pena provided my exam also in English. And Veronica cleaned my teeth. Total cost was four dollars for pleasant and efficient care!  We really enjoyed these friendly Cuencanos.
Oh yes, my cuerpo Jubliado  required lab tests and a medication for about $25 each. I chose Monte Sinai three blocks from our apartment off Avenida Solano. Did you know a 10% discount appears if you display a SuperMaxi or Monte Sinai discount card (Chamber of Commerce members)?  And our 80% reimbursement will be posted to our Coopera account next month.
     Life is tough… then you move to Cuenca!         Rejoicing,  Gary