The private medical services insurance here is mostly through a government program called INS, a Spanish language acrostic. I finally completed the piles of paperwork with doctor signatures and original receipts (No photo copies! One of my claims was disqualified for this reason.) I mailed them to my insurance agent who got them to INS and I received an email pretty quickly telling me what was accepted and how much they would pay me with an electronic deposit in my local bank account when they received the account number. (I added to the time here by at first sending the wrong number dummy me!) When I finally got that right they informed me that since I still don’t have official residency yet, they could not auto deposit but I could come to an INS office or my agent. My agent requires 15 days, so I opted to go to INS somewhere close other than in San Jose. Alajuela is the closest and I went today and even with one problem, I completed the task within two hours! That is could! The problem was that my agent gave me the wrong address or directions to the office in Alajuela and I wasted one taxi fare ($2) in the wrong place. When I got to the right office, a typical government office with guards and take a number and wait until they call it to be served. It was surprisingly quick with only three employees needed to complete my task and they paid me in cash!
That is likely the last/only time I will do that since I canceled my expensive policy. I’m waiting to receive the government coverage after my residency is approved. Hoping that will start happening this Friday the 13th when my attorney appeals! Ironic? Probably! But I’m not superstitious!
And by the way, this experience today continues to strengthen the motivation to learn to speak AND understand Spanish. It is necessary to live here!
Well, I splurged today and hired a private driver to drive me to San Jose for my residential paperwork appointment and to sign up for medical insurance. Part of the way we drove on the Autopista del Sol (official site), or the newest, access-controlled highway from San Jose to the Pacific Beaches. See also a Nosara Surfer’s Report on the Highway. Here’s three phone photos, then I’ll tell you about the experience in the big city.
Out our way is beautiful scenery driving up the central valley.
Further from the city is only 2 or 3 lanes, but . . .
In and near the city are 6 and 8 lanes, toll plazas, and bumper to bumper in rush hour.
I have a wonderful attorney, Jose Pablo Carter Herrera, the son of another attorney with the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, a service organization for expats living in the country. I’m still waiting for an Apostille on my proof of income which Social Security in the states refused to help me with. The embassy here is supposed to do it easily, but it didn’t happen today! The only unfriendly, unhelpful place I’ve been in Costa Rica is the U.S. Embassy. I wasn’t too surprised that they wanted me to make an appointment but they would not let me make it even though I was there standing at the guard station. The correct procedure is to do it over a certain phone number between 8 AM and 11:30 AM, no exceptions! So me and my driver wasted time there. (The embassy in The Gambia was just as haughty and difficult to work with, but you have to work with them!)
The good thing I did not expect was I got my application for health insurance started and within the next week or so I will receive a call from the doctor to schedule my physical for the insurance company. I’m covered by my Medigap Policy for the first 90 days or until March 24. My Pricose agent, Juan Colero, says I will easily have it secured by or before then. It usually takes about 5 weeks after the physical. So I wait for the doc’s call on this. Then pay a whole year’s premium at once, then after a $300 deductible, 90% of everything is paid. It costs less than my Medigap and Rx insurance in the states. But when my residency is finalized I get the even cheaper government medical service if I wish.
Tomorrow I will dutifully call the correct embassy number during the correct hours and hopefully get an appointment fairly soon. Jose can’t file my residency application until I get this last legal document. Then it will take from 5 months to more than a year, depending on which bureaucrat is assigned my application in the Immigration Office. It is all part of the laid back life of Tico-land and I will not worry about it after I have done my part. The private insurance can go on indefinitely and I could decide I like it better than the Caja or government health plan – we will wait and see. But government medicine and a long-term Visa are the reasons I’m applying for residency.
After back around 1:00 I had lunch at a new place for me, La Trilla Restaurante. I compared their Casado con Pollo with La Carretta’s and it was very similar, though they add a piece of cheese and some black bean dip and chips. I also drank another Guanabana drink, this time con leche. Muy bien! Now back to my birds! 🙂 And my study of Spanish!
P.S. Someone asked about the inside of the apartments. During the first two weeks I linked to a photo gallery of the downstairs apartment #4. I have a smaller gallery of my upstairs apartment, since much is the same, all built-ins, granite counters in kitchen, carved doors etc. But anyway, here are the links to the Inside Apartments Galleries:
A branch of the Savegre River, Costa Rica, 9/2014 Photo by Charlie Doggett – Click photo to View
Pura Vida! Here’s a summary of things I’m working on now for the move and at least one sorta funny story in it. This could especially be helpful to those of you considering a move as you see what I actually did on some of the steps I outlined earlier. Pura Vida explained at end of this post. FIRST, THE CORRECT APARTMENT LINK The email version of last night’s post had the wrong link for the apartment I’ve settled on, let’s try again because it is a good website with lots of photos I can’t copy: Hacienda La Jacarandaand I just tested it and it worked, but just in case, here is the address: http://www.atenasapartment.com/ And yes, I have a two bedroom, so a guest room for you! Knowing I can get off the plane and go to my new home is the first big relief! Pura Vida!
MY “TRAVELING” BIRTH CERTIFICATE(Arkansas Bureaucracy)
My one certified copy is old and I need to keep it, so I ordered a new copy that will be sent to Costa Rica. I finally got a real person to talk with and told her I needed my birth certificate with an Apostille (An international seal of certification) on it. “Oh, I’m sorry sir, we don’t do that in this office, but I will transfer you to the person who does.” Riiiiinnnng. “Secretary of State Office.” I again explained what I wanted. “Oh yes sir, just send your Birth Certificate to us and we will place an Apostille on it.” I then explained that I needed a new one and asked if the two offices could work together to place the seal before mailing it to me. “Oh no sir, I’m sorry, you will have to personally mail it to us with a cover letter and $10.” So I ordered the birth certificate online (fairly easy) and got it Express UPS in 2 days! Then I added my letter and check for $10 which is better than the $40 for the certificate! It has now been sent back to Little Rock in another Express UPS envelope ($20). When it is returned my birth certificate will have made three trips between Little Rock and Nashville before I send it to San Jose. I remember complaining how bureaucratic the Gambian government was (and have been warned to expect with Costa Rica), but I think we are just as bad in the states! Pura Vida!
SOCIAL SECURITY, TALKING COMPUTERS (and one real person)
Yesterday I spent more than an hour trying to get a certified, signed letter proving I make at least $1,000 or more per month. The SS Website is confusing and after talking computers, the recording for live customer service says “an hour or more wait, so press 1 for a call back.” They never called back. I did find a “statement of SS Income form online and printed it, but it’s not a letter and I’m afraid not official looking enough to satisfy the Costa Rica government.
So this morning I talked with a real person quickly at our local Madison SS Office and after one minute of data collecting, he very business-like said “I’ll get that out to you today sir.” No discussion, excuses or wasted time, just done! Hey! I like that! So the second document needed for my residency application is on its way. (I hope!) Police report on me is next job to tackle. Pura Vida!
BIG JOB OF SELLING STUFF, DOWNSIZING
I started with some videos on eBay and plan to add some books and other items there as I go along. McKendree Village is starting a “Village Treasures” Shop on October 11, in one of the unused cottages up front, which is just what I need since we are not allowed to have yard sales. It will more often be used for older people who move to nursing home or die and need to dispose of furniture and household goods. I’m already boxing up household goods for them and will pick some art or some of my many framed photos. I’ll have Jane & Scott come over and assess my stuff soon. This is in many ways the biggest job, because I want to limit what I put in storage and maybe later ship to Costa Rica. But life is not stuff! Pura Vida!
NEW REVELATIONS ON INTERIM MEDICAL INSURANCE
I plan to go on the more affordable government health plan called CAJA after I gain residency, which will take 6 months to a year. The most affordable interim option presented to us in the seminar (though not real cheap) was a PRICOSE private INS Health Insurance. I’ll do it for a year until I can get the CAJA. I wrote the PRICOSE representative who talked at our seminar, telling him I wanted to enroll before January 1 to be covered as I arrive. “Sorry,” he says. I will have to be in country and apply in person with a local attorney’s affidavit, a full physical by one of their doctors including a $130 EKG. The whole process will take about 5 weeks after I arrive. Brick wall I thought! Okay, so now I have to arrange for about two months of overseas or travel coverage until I can get their coverage. I’ll call “One Exchange” today.
“One Exchange” is the proxy for health coverage plans for LifeWay Retirees. They mainly help you pick out a policy that they sell you for their percentage. I talked to two people, the last of whom kept putting me on hold while she talked to her supervisor. They are all ignorant of what to do and even though I told them what my research indicated was possible through a Medigap Plan for 60 days, they knew nothing about it and said they would have to research it and get back with me. A big waste of 45 minutes!
Then I call my Medigap Insurer, Mutual of Omaha, and told them what my research showed and asked if my Medigap was one with the overseas coverage. They were the opposite of One Exchange. Misha was knowledgeable, polite and helpful. In just a few minutes she confirmed my research and told me that my Mutual of Omaha Medigap will cover me overseas at 80% for the first 60 days for all medical expenses that Medicare would cover in the states with a $250 deductible and $50,000 maximum. That will give me 60 days to get the Costa Rica policy I was told would take 5 weeks (35 days). I will not cancel my Mutual of Omaha Medigap Insurance until AFTER I have the local policy in hand as recommended by Mutual of Omaha and common sense, in case something doesn’t work out. (If INS took longer than 5 weeks and I have an emergency, I can fly home and be covered as I am now.) I am so relieved about something that was beginning to be a concern. There is now a plan in place to keep me with medical insurance at all times during the transition. I believe I will make it through this move just fine! Due diligence, planning and proper timing pays off! Pura Vida! (A Costa Rica slogan, literally meaning “Pure Life” but used to express the joy of life, happiness, greetings, etc. The above efforts are part of my cost to soon gain Pura Vida!)