Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Holiday in US - Must have Health Insurance

                         INDIVIDUAL HEALTH INSURANCE
                                                                               WHILE TRAVELLING IN USA

--Luke S. Brown

            If you are going to visit the US for any extended period of time, it is a very good idea to plan ahead for the chance that you will become ill or suffer an accident that requires medical care. If you are coming to the US to work, you may have the opportunity to participate in your employer’s group health insurance program. But if work is not the reason that you are coming, you are probably on your own and may want to purchase individual health insurance to protect you while you are here. By “individual” I am not referring to a policy just for you; the term refers to a private insurance policy for one person or a family.

Here is a basic checklist of how to go about the process:
1.  Find a health insurance agent (sometimes called a “broker” if he/she represents multiple insurers) with whom you can work and whom you feel a sense of trust. You can get a referral from a friend, consult the telephone directory, check the internet or locate someone whose office is nearby. You will want to make sure that the agent is licensed to sell “life and health” insurance, although he/she may also be licensed to sell “property & casualty” insurance. Licensure can be verified by calling the Department of Insurance in the state in which you live (usually located in the Capitol, there will be an office in the Department of Insurance that can verify agent licensure)

The agent does not have to become your best friend, but he or she should not treat you as just “another customer”.  Look for someone who takes an interest in and understands your needs and objectives—especially because you are unfamiliar with dealing with insurance in the US. This may take some time, and may involve meeting with a few agents.  There are many good online sources by which to find and secure coverage, but an online transaction is often less personal and more mechanical. 

2.  When you decide on the agent that you are going to use, discuss alternative kinds of health insurance. For example, historically, the main kind of health insurance was called “fee for service”. This involved going to whatever healthcare provider you wanted to go to, the provider submitting his/her bill to the insurer and the insurer paying it. This has mostly been replaced by forms of “managed care” where the insurer has implemented various kinds of cost-savings devices such as requiring permission to see a specialist, or by providing annual “wellness check-ups” without requiring you to pay a deductible (which would be required for other kinds of doctor visits).

Sometimes you can buy health insurance without going through an agent. This is often the case if you wish to enroll in a form of health insurance called a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). There are various kinds of HMO’s, differing mostly in the amount of choice you are given in the selection of a healthcare provider. It is not really a question of one being better than another—it is more a question of differences in how they operate and what you feel most comfortable with. It may also be a question of cost, because the ones that put the greatest limitations on choice are often the least costly (but that is not the case all of the time or everywhere).
It is very important that the insurer to which you will apply is licensed to conduct insurance business in your State; this is referred to as being “authorized”.  Call  Insurance Department to make sure. There are many scams, and you do not want to get caught in one.

3. Determine how much of the financial risk of illness or injury you can or are willing to absorb.  This will have a bearing upon the premium that is charged for your insurance in a few ways:

●  Lifetime policy limits:  Although it is hard to predict future healthcare needs, health insurance can be purchased with different lifetime limits.  This is the maximum that the insurer will be obligated to pay for covered expenses while the policy is in force during your lifetime.  In general, the higher the lifetime limits, the higher the premium.  The limits are sometimes expressed in terms of an amount per person, or an aggregate amount if multiple people are covered (such as a family).  Once the limits are exhausted, you will be responsible for the excess.  This may not be a big issue if you are planning on leaving the US after a relatively short time, but there is no telling the amount of medical expenses that can be incurred in that time.

●  Deductibles:  A deductible is fixed amount of money that you are responsible for paying before the insurance company’s obligation to pay for covered services is triggered.  The deductible is usually expressed as an annual amount.  There can be different deductibles within the same policy, such as a separate deductible per hospital admission (instead of or in addition to the annual deductible).  Deductibles may vary based on whether care is received from a provider who is on a list approved by the insurer or not.  You may choose the deductible that best suits your financial circumstances from those offered by the insurer.  Generally, a higher deductible will mean a lower premium.

●  Copayments:  A copayment divides or shares responsibility for medical costs between you and the insurer.  It requires you to pay a fixed dollar amount when a medical service is obtained, and the insurer is responsible for the remainder.  Based upon the medical services obtained, different copayments may apply.  Generally, a higher  copayment can translate into a lower premium.

●   Coinsurance:  This refers to the percentage of covered medical expenses that the insurer pays after the deductible has been met.  Common coinsurance rates are 20-30% of the amount the insurer has approved for the healthcare service.  This means that the insurer will pay the remaining 70-80%.  Some health insurers offer optional higher coinsurance amounts, which, if selected, usually reduces premiums, but means that you will be responsible for a greater portion of the charges.

4.  Answer all questions on the insurance application truthfully.  The importance of this cannot be stressed enough.  If you withhold information or lie, the insurance company may have the right to cancel coverage retroactively.  If that happens, it will be as though you never had insurance.  What’s more, depending upon the circumstances, you may be treading dangerously near to insurance fraud, which is a crime.

Luke S. Brown is a retired insurance attorney who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. He assists people with consumer and business problems including those involving insurance, healthcare, government benefits and others. He helps by untangling issues, making calls, writing letters and achieving mutually satisfactory outcomes. He may be reached at Brownknows01@gmail.com, and invites you to his website at www.YourProblemSolvers.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Costa Navarino - Greece

We will be covering these four amazing destinations of the UK

Costa Navarino        Messinia             Greece                  The Westin           
Beach PanoramicDestination: 1

Costa Navarino is the place to go if you want that little bit extra from a holiday in Greece. 
                                 Infinity Pool
Yes, it has sun and sea and of course wonderful food but it also has so many other delights and year round activities to lure the family, it is the 5 – star destination to head for in this part of the world.

Destination: 2

Kalamata - A Famous city of Greece
The flight to Kalamata in the Messinia region in the southwest Peloponnese is only three hours from the UK. In such a short time you are transported to a different world, a world of myths, legends and 4,500 years of history. Steeped in tradition, this part of Greece is not far from the original site of the Olympics. 

On 23rd of June each year the hotel celebrates Olympic Day with the athletes of the future being coached by previous Olympians.
Kids PoolSalad
There are two hotels as well as villas in Cost Navarino 
1. The Romanos has 320 fantastic rooms with lots of space and most on the ground floor the room and suites have their own infinity pools. 
2. The Westin Hotel, where I stayed has 444 deluxe rooms, family suits and villas and is the perfect place to check into for a couple of weeks and put your feet up. The sprawling complex is village like in its layout. With pools and bars popping up around every corner there is something new to discover every day. Shops and restaurants blend seamlessly with the low impact architecture and greenery.

Sunset Panoramic
The credentials of Costa Navarino are very eco and sympathetic to the local vernacular. Local stone and styles are used extensively along with scented planted verandas and lawns. Low-rise terracotta tiled roofs are used throughout. The whole effect is both pleasing and calming. This philosophy continues in the spa where you can take many treatments that play heavily on the heritage of Hellenic medicine and the teachings of Greek philosophers.
What are you going to do with your little ones while you enjoy a cocktail or two at the Anazoe spa or poolside bar on your own? They have thought of that, there are two clubs – Cocoon and Sandcastle covering three months up to twelve years with qualified child care unlike any other I have ever seen in a hotel. And it just gets better, the staff are multilingual who on any typical day might help you kids with craft work, games, swimming or story telling and the icing on the cake is that during the peak summer season they offer a sleepover service. While you make a night of it in one of twenty odd restaurants and bars or go diving or water skiing your children will be cosseted in their own little berths with such delights as star gazing and cooking their own supper and all the fun of sleeping over with a group of youngsters.
It’s easy to stay within the confines of The Westin, as it’s enormous if you include the two championship golf courses, but you could also dip into a spot of local culture. A group of us spent a brilliant evening with two local women from Pylos learning how to make Greek pasta and full evening meal with wine for only 55 Euros a head. It’s a great way to get involved and chat to fellow guests. The mix is truly international and stimulating. On our table were Italian, British, French, Swiss, German and Greek guests.
Rolling Pasta
If it’s something cerebral you are after then Professor Eleni Volonaki, Lecturer in Ancient Greek Literature conducts philosophy walks under an ancient olive tree in a quiet corner of a golf course where you can sit round and discuss and compare the concepts of education and sport in a historical context compared to today. You can get involved as much or as little as you like. It’s very stimulating and offers food for thought and of course you can continue the discussion over a glass of wine and into the evening if you like.
Salad 2
Food plays a big part of Greek life and it is well represented at Costa Navarino, the multitude of restaurants will keep you busy during your stay. There are options that include traditional Greek, Modern Greek; Italian there’s even an authentic US Diner.  
One of my favourites was Barbouni a fish restaurant situated on the beach it is completely open with no walls. The fish was as fresh as it could and the grilled octopus sublime. It has the most mesmerising ceiling made of long strips of cloth cut to look like waves that catch the breeze and shimmer and billow like the sea, a brilliant design that is both relaxing and stimulating in equal measure.
Stadium PanoramicMosaic 2The ProfessorArtifacts
An afternoon excursion to Ancient Messine is a must built in 369 BC with fortifications stretching over 9 km it is one of the best-preserved historical sites in Greece. Professor Petros Themelis has spent most of his professional life dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Ancient Messene. Only a couple of hours from Costa Navarino the journey takes you through ancient villages and windy roads and olives groves have been there thousands of years. Seeing the site unfold is incredible, it takes you back to a time of gladiators and philosophers. At its height the population was over 10,000. The site is large and contains a theatre, stadium, market square, a Doric temple and mausoleum. With partly restored mosaics and columns you can see history returning to life. There is a small museum on site as well.
My stay at Costa Navarino was all too short but what I did glean is that there is so much to this beautiful part of the world with the lapping Ionian sea at edge of the hotel it really has one of the best outlooks I’ve seen. A short distance way is Bay of Navarino a huge natural harbor that played an important part in battle for Greece’s independence in 1827. The allied forces of British, French and Russian defeated an Ottoman armada in the last major naval battle fought entirely at sea. This part of the world just can’t help being interesting. If you have a cooking lesson with the ladies of Pylos you will see from their home a most spectacular view of Navarino Bay as the sunsets. Costa Navarino even makes its own wine, called? You guessed it, 1827!
Syrup on PancakesOctopus 2
Property experts talk of location location location; well Costa Navarino is all destination, destination, destination. If it’s peace and quiet you are after with your family and the option to enjoy a few tailored activities (with a bit of time off for mum and dad thrown in) then The Westin at Costa Navarino is the place to make your own piece of history.
Navarino Bay Panoramic
Design Holidays is offering a seven-night stay at The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino, from £461 per person, staying in a garden view hotel room on a bed and breakfast basis.

To book visit www.designholidays.co.uk or call 01444 87 22 00.

Flights are available from £130pp – Gatwick / Kalamata with www.easyjet.com
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Luxury Camping in Brittany - France

Luxury Safari Tent     Canvas Holidays     Domaine des Ormes       
Brittany                 France
  Tent ExteriorGetting through the channel tunnel is as easy as pie, you check in without leaving your car (they have a highly sophisticated system that reads your number plate). You drive onto the train, which is a bit weird at first but it makes sense. You then wind down your window, wait for the train to start and in a little over half an hour you pop up into the sunlight in France.

Town 1Getting M to go camping was quite a bit harder. She is a dyed in the wool ‘camping phobe’. The last time she was in a tent was as a Brownie way back in the distant past. When the idea was mooted all I heard were one or two horror stories based on fuddled memories of over 30 years ago. She would say things like “Well it’s alright for the boys but you won’t catch me doing it, you can go if you want but I’m definitely not sleeping in a tent” And so it went on. I booked it anyway but what I hadn’t told her was that this was camping with a difference. This was luxury camping.
Safari Kitchen
Some people call it ‘glamping’ but Canvas Holidays who organised the trip for us have developed a half way house in the form of luxury Safari Tents sited in Brittany, northern France. As soon as M found out that our tent was to have a shower, toilet and kitchen and the biggest pull of all, real beds she was sold. Well at least I knew she was sold even though at this stage I was still hearing “Well it might be alright I suppose, but are there any hotels near by in case I don’t like it?”
Street at Night
This of course was not necessary as it turned out to be nothing short of brilliant. Our journey started early morning and a short drive down to Folkstone to catch the train. Out the other end and the serious driving begins. Driving on a French road is something I’d forgotten about. It’s fast, they like to drive fast, that’s all you need to know. We went at our own pace and were at our campsite Domaine des Ormes within a few hours.
Restaurant Exterior
The beautiful countryside is a million miles away from the Kentish vistas we are used to. Our 15 year old was quite taken with the views and kept on asking how easy is it to live here. Easy we replied all you need is a job and to speak French. That kept him quiet for a while (he’s doing Spanish at school having dropped French a year ago).
Silhouette on Rope Bridge
Domaine des Ormes is vast, over 600 acres of horse riding, a golf course, camping, tree houses, swimming pools, tree walks and luxury Safari Tents.
Checking in is a simple process that involves you having a wristband attached (a bit like going to a festival) and a key fob that lets you back onto the site. Then we were taken to our tent by Janine she was on her bike with us following slowly behind. There are a lot of cyclists in the camp as you can hire bikes by the day or week so driving slowly is a must.
A On Pony/Lake
The tent was impressive to say the least. It had wooden floors throughout, a good-sized cooking area with a four-ring hob, fridge and worktop area. There was a large table to eat from and two bedrooms divided by curtains. Our bedroom had a fabulous four-poster bed with a mosquito net on it. I don’t think there are any mosquitoes around in late May but it looked very ‘safari’. The kids room had two bunk beds so you could sleep four. Then there was the ‘deal breaker’ for M, the bathroom. This was better than many B & B’s I’ve stayed in. Wooden floor, large shower with hot and cold water and a stylish hand basin on a wooden stand, and it was roomy enough to swing a cat or two.
We had totally lucked out “This isn’t camping” said out 15 year old “There are beds for a start and it’s got a wooden floor” “Yes” we replied in unison “Isn’t it brilliant”. If M’s happy then I’m happy, so our five days in the ‘jungles’ of Brittany began.
M with Bow
There really was so much to do we didn’t manage half of it. One of things that both children wanted to do was have a go at the climbing wall. Towering some 30ft it looked completely impregnable to me but after being strapped in by a qualified instructor and the application of climbing helmets they were up that wall like a pair of ferrets. They loved it and had some sound instruction along the way, even X who is used to them said it was “Really good because we were guided through each section and given encouragement”. A who was in his last week of being eight showed no fear at all and made it to the top several times.
X Crossing Long Roap Bridge
Cooking was very easy in the tent as the facilities while not quite home are very easy to get to grips with. If you don’t fancy cooking you can always eat at the onsite Pizza Restaurant or the French Bistro if you’d like something a little more substantial. They even have a creperie that you can visit for a quick chocolaty sugary hit.
The boys both hired bikes, in fact A learned to ride properly while we were there. Being townies we hadn’t concentrated much on that aspect of his development as we walk most places or drive longer distances. He has been a fiend on his two wheeled scooter for years so it was no surprise that he rode a bike in a few minutes and after a couple of hours and only one or two bruises was a complete cyclist. Proud mum and dad and a beaming A made for a wonderful day.
Other challenges proved a little harder but by no means any less enjoyable. The tree walks (walks is a loose term here) are available for three different heights of children (or adults). X went on the ‘grown up’ one and loved it. Climbing from tree to tree with the aid of wires to stop you falling, zip wire and a planked bridge over a lake were some the obstacles to overcome. A’s course was not as high up and physically less demanding but great fun all the same. A did it twice he liked it so much.
There is a lot to do in the surrounding area as well as on site. We had an evening meal in Dol-de-Bretagne to celebrate my birthday. A modern take on the bistro, which had great food and in funky surroundings. The town itself is medieval and full of history as well as some enticing shops. What is it about wishing to be local? We found ourselves in a shop specialising in Breton wear and before you knew it we all emerged with something stripy.
Climbing Wall 1
Closer to home there was a dare on the table. The boys kept on asking what mum and I would do in the way of activities. Tricky, we didn’t want to do anything really except just lounge around in our lovely tent. But the boys weren’t having any of it (secretly it gave us an excuse to have a bit of fun without looking stupid).
Climbing Wall 2
Archery was chosen for its even playing field of ability. We had a superb instructor who would casually say “No not like that, hold it like this” and wham a Bull’s Eye without even looking. M scored the first Bull’s Eye we were all a bit envious then A then X and finally me. I can tell that we all enjoyed it enormously but it is harder than it looks, well that’s my excuse anyway.
Atticus on Rope Bridge
There was one thing that A was quite keen to do but was a bit nervous about. We held firm not because we are cruel but because we knew he’d regret it if he didn’t give it a go. So it was on our last full day A had his first ride on a pony. He didn’t fall off, the pony was delightful and we all walked with him through the woods and around the site for half an hour. He loved it. There are many things to do here for all the family some new and some old. The place is so safe that you really can let your children have a slice of what you had in childhood, out all day playing around, making new mates, cycling, swimming whatever it may be your kids are bound to have a good time.
C/U A With Crash Helmet
Before we left there was one last activity I’d been itching to try but was frankly too afraid to do it on my own, a giant zip wire. So as all parents do in times of trouble I asked A if he’d like to go on the zip wire he replied “Well dad it looks really high up, I’ll do it if you come with me” Bingo my wish was granted. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.
We climbed up into the tree house that you ‘launch’ from, it was raining lightly and the ground was a bit wet. Strapped in and told what to do (you run into the mound of bark as you get to the end, you shouldn’t fall over) we zipped off, A looked elegant and smooth as he flew (faster than me) down the wire and performed a perfect landing. I on the other hand tried to face the front but kept on slipping round. The consequence of this was hitting the ground came as a bit of shock to me. I landed butt first in wet bark that managed to push itself up my t-shirt as far as my neck and into my trousers. To say I lacked dignity would be an understatement, A was laughing his head off so was M who had filmed the whole sorry episode.
Canvas Bottle of Wine
We left the next day wishing we could have stayed longer, it really was good fun, even M the world’s worst camper loved it. She said she’d do it again no problem. My only concern was to land with a shred of dignity, I guess I’ll have to give it another go another year when nobody is filming me.
Atticus with Kite
Four nights at Camping Domaine des Ormes, Dol de Bretagne, costs from £741based on staying in a Safari Tent Deluxe (sleeps six) on a self-catering basis and arriving onsite by 15 August 2014.
Canvas Holidays will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015 and has an illustrious history of offering high quality camping holidays at over 90 handpicked sites for camping across ten European countries including France, Spain, Holland and Germany. Canvas Holidays provides self-catering accommodation to suit all budgets, offering flexibility on dates, duration and travel arrangements.

For more information on Canvas Holidays or to book, visit
Tel: 0845 268 0827
To read more of my travel and food reviews go to

Nimb's Copenhagen

Nimbs Brasserie
Bernstorffsgade 5
1577 Copenhagen
Tel: + 4588 70 00 00
 Canal at Nyhavn
Our journey that ended up in Copenhagen’s Nimb Brasserie incongruously started with an attempted booking to the world’s best restaurant, Noma. I logged on and registered with Noma three months in advance and sat waiting until the booking opened online. Within one second I was in. Great I thought, I followed the procedures inputting the date and time etc. It then lets you know where you stand. It would appear that although I was logged on within one second I was now over 800th in line for a table that seats less than 50 per sitting. Bad news, still I did email and told them of my planned trip (air fares had been paid) they kindly informed me that there might be a cancellation (really it would take a few hundred cancellations to make me smile at this point).
'Nimb' Menu
So zoom forward and M and I are happily ensconced in a central hotel enjoying all that Copenhagen has to offer, culture, boat trips, museums, Borgen location spotting. I make a phone call to Noma, nothing yet, but call back tomorrow (Saturday) and there might be a cancellation. I call back and the very polite answer was still no. Blast. But there are plenty of good Nordic restaurants in Copenhagen so I immediately check the guidebook. Herman’s is a Michelin starred outfit in Nimb’s Hotel set on the edge of the world famous Tivoli Gardens. We asked reception to book a table. Brilliant, we were in.
We arrived to find out that Thomas Herman had left to a life of stardom after successfully fronting the Danish Masterchef TV Programme. Second ‘blast’ of the holiday. Still we were booked in to the eponymous Brasserie. The menu looked simple (usually a good sign) so we decided to go for it. Mistake.
Virgin Mojito
The restaurant is swish and has a bristle of excitement about it. We had a good table with a small sofa each to sit on. We ordered pre food drinks, and then sometime later we ordered food. Sometime later the drinks arrived with the wine I’d ordered and the starters. This was not a brilliant beginning but never mind. M had chosen just a nibble of a starter, olives with fresh peaches. No peaches to be found at all but the olives (queen) were very good. My salted ham, smoked cheese and paprika had me intrigued. It had the appearance of wafer thin ham with a slight dusting of paprika. It didn’t really taste of anything. There was a runny cow’s milk cheese that didn’t taste smoked under the very thin bland ham. To paraphrase Caroline Aherne ‘The ham was so thin it could have been vegetarian’.
Ham, Smoked Cheese and Paprika
The idea was a good one but it lacked that vital component that any decent plate of food requires wherever it comes from – it lacked possession of taste. I asked our waiter for a copy of the menu to keep he said he’d sort that out for me. We did have some home cooked bread, which was not only warm but really tasty as well. So the side bread tastier than the starter? Surely that’s not right?
After a shaky and rather hurried start we asked for a little gap before the mains came. A sagely nod and we were left alone. Some time later as we had asked our steaks arrived. We had requested rare, they were, they had bĂ©arnaise sauce (which was very good) but and I mean a really BIG but, they were stone cold! They had clearly taken heed of our request by simply cooking at the usual time and then leaving somewhere cool for twenty minutes. After some time again were managed to get a waiter’s attention. He understood and removed the steaks and promised some hot ones.
tripple Fried Chips
Just after that our first waiter came and asked if we had enjoyed our steaks and we would like something for dessert. We calmly explained to his ever-growing consternation that we were still waiting fulfilment of that particular request. I asked again if I could have a copy of the menu, again he said he would do that for me.
Cheeses 2
Our steaks arrived and were larger than the previous cold ones and praise the Lord they were hot. They tasted very good although M did think hers was bit on the fatty side. The chips had, I think been triple cooked and were fantastic (the first lot were of course cold and floppy) By now the manager had been appraised of our experiences and had come over to apologise and make sure we were happy with our steaks. I asked him if I could have a copy of the menu, he said “certainly sir” and within 30 seconds of him leaving our table the original waiter (who found it so hard to produce one in the first place) rather sheepishly handed over a copy of the menu.
Bearnaise Sauce

This wasn’t a total failure of a meal, we did have a good steak and chips eventually and the bread was wonderful. M couldn’t face any more but I took a calculated risk and ordered some cheese. It was fine, nothing special it came with some spicy biscuits that I couldn’t be bothered to ask about as I was learning you have to book face time with the waiters at Nimb’s Brasserie to get any response and life is too short. This was also a very expensive meal, over 1600DK.
Copenhagen Night
So the moral of this sad little tale is this; always check the restaurant exists regardless of what a concierge might say to you and just hope to God that the place you finally sit down and order your food from can bloody well come up with the goods.

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