Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh how I miss the NHS

They always say you don't miss things till they are gone, well this seems true of the NHS. For those Americans reading this, NHS is the National Health Service in the UK and basically you get national insurance deducted from you salary (its not a large amount) and then all healthcare (including dentists) is FREE - yes i really did say FREE!!

Touch wood we haven't had any major health issues/accidents since moving here, but we have had some dealings with the wonderful American healthcare system. For those of you in the UK, basically here you choose a healthcare scheme, then if you are lucky your employer pays a lump sum each month for healthcare and then you pay a lump sum (tax free), you can then choose which package you want depending on how unhealthy you are! and not forgetting the favourite word here 'co-pay' Im sure an American invented that word. So you basically pay more each month and get fantastic cover or you pay less and hope you don't get sick as you will have to pay more if you do. If you don't have cover than you will get a huge bill, and a lots of people are facing financial hardship here as they cant afford to pay huge medical bills for treatment they have basically needed to stay alive.

My first dealing with the healthcare system was around March time, first of all we had to track down a Dr who is covered by our particular healthcare scheme. We initially were in no hurry to register until Dave hurt his back, so I decided to register at the same time as his appointment. So along we go, also i should add that it seems being rude and unhelpful is a universal trait of a Drs receptionist! So they take $25 (co-pay) from you before you even see the Dr. One thing they do here which I do think is good (although clearly its all about making money in the long run Im sure), they do a full health screen when you register, you get a physical and bloods done and they check for a lot of things, this was all covered by our healthcare scheme (which was good to know), although they do make you go back to the Dr for the results - yes another $25 to be told you are fine! Anyway, Dave went with his back and got sent for x-rays the same day (another $25 co-pay for the x-ray guy), and another appointment back at the Dr for the results - yes you've guessed it another $25 for that (notice a familiar pattern). X-rays are negative, but he did get a prescription for pain meds, so off to the pharmacy with that and guess what - another co-pay, this time only $5 - which technically makes it cheaper than a UK prescription :) They also referred Dave for physio (but he never went!). When i had my health screen, which incidentally they do for you every year (i guess in the hope they find something wrong and invite you back for more appointments), they give you a four page questionnaire to fill in with tick boxes, one of the questions near the end is 'do you feel suicidal?' i felt like writing 'yes after filling in this bloody questionnaire'. I ticked yes to 'do you snore?' So this prompts the Dr to try and send me for a sleep study, which i politely declined - much to her disgust, she then notices I've ticked yes to allergies, and a smile appears on her face, which soon disappears when i tell her I've had allergy testing and don't want it again, she even tries to send me to a dietician, but again i politely decline. Im sure she is taking back handers from all these referrals, hence her annoyance at my declining everyone. Incidentally it seems an asthma inhaler isn't classed as a normal prescription and they wanted $30 for that one!

So down to the nitty gritty as you have read this far, here is a quick recap of some of the costs we have incurred so far.

Trip to ER after our decking collapsed and my leg went through. Visit involved seeing an ER Dr, having 4 x-rays, an ultrasound on each leg, and then seeing the ER Dr again and a prescription for narcotics (i like that word!!) The total bill (i was in there for 2 hours) was $3404.09 - luckily after our insurance we were only left with a $580 co-pay, and there turned out to be nothing wrong with my leg just bad bruising.

Today I went to the dentist, the checkup, x-rays, clean and polish were all covered by my insurance, but my next visit for 3 crowns and a filling is going to cost $1500.

There is a good side to all of this long blog post, and that is that the care here and service of healthcare professionals is excellent, and as a general rule you don't have a long wait, I have had dealings with private hospitals in the UK and the service I received there was also exceptional. I guess its true what they say you get what you pay for.

I would say I miss the NHS overall - especially as they swipe my bank card here and take yet another co-pay, but then I do like the excellent care and speedy service here - I once had to wait 12 weeks for a NHS physio appointment in the UK when my back was bad, I went via our private healthcare in the UK and was seen by a physio the same day. I would definitely say if you can afford it go for the speedier service, Im not saying the service you get from the NHS is rubbish (I've never had a bad experience), its just extremely slow.

Thanks for reading my long post, not really sure what i wanted to say other than to have a little rant I guess, maybe I should blog about vet bills next......

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Staying in touch

When you move to the other side of the world and leave your friends and family, it can be a tough and scary time. 
Today reminded me of how easy it is to stay in touch thanks to the powers of the internet, and more specifically the power of skype. For those of you who arent familiar it is a programme that is free to download and allows you to make calls for free to other users on their PC, it also allows you to make calls using video (via webcams). All you need is a good quality mic and speakers (which most laptops already have built in) and if you want to use the video calling you need a webcam too. All of which can be purchased very reasonably from any local computer store. There are also applications you can download to some smart phones that allow you to use it on the move too, though not sure if its always free that way.
Since moving here skype has been a god send, and has helped us stay in touch with friends and family back home, as well as with new friends we have made since moving here. Also just thinking of all the hours we have used skype instead of our landline soon adds up, as international calling isnt cheap. Although saying that there is a skype service that allows you to call landlines and cell phones at a reduced rate too.
Last Christmas was nice as we got to skype with all family members during the day, and used the video calling so it was great to be able to be part of their day, and also them part of our day. It soon makes you forget you are thousands of miles away from them. 
Also means you arent stuck with the family all day christmas day too!! (not that we wouldnt love to be with you guys if we were there :) )
We dont have kids, but I imagine having kids and moving so far away can be very tough on them, and using the video calling is a great way for them to update relatives on how they are feeling and all the exciting things they have been upto. Setting up a regular time to call family each week is another good way to stay in touch and dedicate some time to spending with them.
So anyone reading this who is planning a big move, or even if you arent, you should go and download skype and you will be amazed at how easy it is to use and stay in touch with loved ones. It can also be use to send messages like msn messenger/yahoo messenger. If anyone doesnt have me on their skype list and would love to stay in touch please message me and Ill let you have my account details.

Just go here to download the programme for free and have fun staying in touch :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just been to taco bell....

This was the conversation I just had with the taco bell guy....

Taco guy: You arent from America are you?
Me: No, Im from England, but I live here now

Taco guy: What language do you speak?
Me: English!!

Taco guy: yeah but what language did you speak when you lived in England
Me: English 

*awkward silence*

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hot, hot, hot

Thats how the weather has been the last few days. Its been nice, but when its too hot it just seems so much of an effort to go out and do anything (unless you want to come home drenched with sweat)
I think it last rained here in April, and if I'm honest I'm starting to miss rain, according to my neighbor we wont be getting any until at least November!! and next month is supposed to be even hotter. 
On the plus side I am developing a nice tan :) The down side is having to have the sprinkler system on for the garden, our water bill was more than double this time. The dogs do enjoy going in their doggie paddling pool, so that water is definitely worth it.
One thing i definitely did miss this year was the snow, it never snows here, although you can drive for 3-4 hours and be in the snow (well maybe not this time of year) We did actually see some snow in Yosemite in July when we went, which was strange to see as it was really hot there that day.
Weather seems to be the first thing I mention when people ask me what I like about it here too, so I guess it cant be all that bad.
Its supposed to drop back to around 20 degrees tomorrow, Im sure ill soon be blogging that Im cold.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How I sometimes feel!!!

Ive just found this very funny video on you tube, and it sums up how I feel sometimes when I speak to people and have to repeat myself over and over again.........

It is quite a common occcurance, especially when Im on the phone, and the local chinese restaurant who we call on a regular basis still makes me spell out my road name!!

Surely my English accent isnt that hard to understand.

Now Im started on the whole subject, since being here I have only been asked twice if Im from Australia and once if I was Irish, actually make that twice, as a child last week said to me 'Why are you talking weird like an Irish person' - I quickly re-educated him :) Speaking to other British Ex-Pats , apparently its common to be asked if you are South African too - seriously!!

One thing that I have noticed since moving here is how friendly people are, in the UK you can walk down the street past lots of people and nobody speaks, but here everyone seems to speak or acknowledge you (although not in the city - mainly as its full of tourists), and I rarely find Im able to walk the dogs without people stopping to say how cute they are... Then I reply with 'thank-you' and all the questions begin, 'You are English, how cute, do you live here?' If I had a dollar for every time I've been told my accent is cute Id be rich! So sometimes Im glad when people walk past and don't speak to me, as after a while it gets annoying answering the same questions 'why are you here?', 'whats England like?' and the best ones are 'I have a friend called xxxxx who lives in England, do you know them?' I sometimes wonder if they teach kids at school about other countries, as they clearly are unaware that England is big enough that not everyone knows everyone else!

I guess this is my first real blog post about some of the UK/US differences, hopefully my next few posts will be as interesting. Also thanks for all the great ideas on what to blog about, I have them all on a post it note on my desk ready to work on

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We strutted with our mutts

So today was the day of the mutt strutt, it was very overcast so we turned up with our jackets, but by the time the walk started it had really warmed up and we didn't need them :)
There were a lot more dogs than I expected and some cool fancy dress outfits, there was even a white poodle that had red ears and a blue tail (unfortunately I wasnt able to get a photo). We came home with three goodie bags full of dog treats so Jess and Bluey were very happy about that.
We did the 3k walk which was nice despite my bad knee, and the dogs really enjoyed walking with lots of other dogs, so we will definitely be taking part again next year
Just before the walk we had raised $100, and our page is still active if there are any last minute donators :)

So as promised here are some photos (if I can work out how to add photos)
Resting before the walk

Waiting for the walk to start

Two very tired pups, and me forgetting to smile for the camera!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mutt Strutt

So tomorrow, Dave, Jess, Bluey and I are taking part in the 16th Annual Mutt Strutt at Coyote Point, obviously this will be our first participation in the event. 

We are going to hopefully do the 3k walk around the park, depends on how warm it is and how Jess is, as she gets heat stroke really easily. We are really looking forward to it, there will be lots of competitions, including fancy dress, although I don't have any plans to dress our two up, Im saving that for halloween. There will also be lots of vendor booths (of course wanting all our hard earned cash, or should I say Dave's hard earned cash!!), plus some demonstrations prior to the actual walk around the park.

If anyone would be interesting in sponsoring us for tomorrow, that would be great.
Here is our fundraising page -  The Westies  :)
We are hoping to raise $300, but are stuck at $80 at the moment, not sure if this is because people don't want to support the cause, or whether they just aren't as generous here in the US, as previous sponsored events I've done in the UK I've raised lots.

A special thank you to those of you who have already sponsored us :)

I will be reporting back tomorrow with photos (yes i know I promised photos of the clothes yesterday - I havent forgotten)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crazy lunch!!

So today I went out to lunch with a friend and we went to Coconut Bay - the food was very nice, and they have a $7.95 lunch special. After leaving here we went for a walk to a local charity store, and met a very crazy woman, she was dressed in a very strange outfit (long trenchcoat, trainers, smart top, pearls), she was asking me for my opinion on her outfit and if it was suitable to meet her mans mother in!! She was about 70 this woman, we didn't stay in the shop too long, especially as she did keep following me.

On the plus side I've found some cool funky tops for tomorrow nights fancy dress party, and a very strange yellow all in one suit, that I will use for an outfit for halloween, once I decide what to turn it into it, photos of all the items will be posted shortly

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 1 in the world of my blog

So I've been here (in the US) for 9 months and 2 days now, and I've been meaning to start a blog all this time.
Today after reading Sarah's blog, I finally took the plunge and created my own blog. Although Im new to all of this so not sure how often Ill update, and if Ill even have anything exciting to say.
Plus there seems lots of fancy widgets and stuff to look at and add too. 
So watch this space I guess....