Category Archives: MONEY & HEALTH

Unexpected encounter with Norwegian health care – Solvern

hospital waiting room with a fjords view

Playing catch up on posts:

Sadly I broke my arm during a great hike in the forest just north of our guesthouse/ hostel. I knew the minute I fell that my arm was the issue…unfortunately the same arm that broke my elbow 9 years ago. We ended up cutting our plans short with our new friends Christine (from southern China) and Alain (from Provence, France) and going first to a little clinic in the small town of Gaupne, where the very courteous and kind Dr then referred me to a small hospital about an hour away in Lærdal that has X-ray capability. The clinic was new and Nordic modern design. The hospital was a little dated in decor but man, what a view from the waiting room — of giant fjords mountains and we had to take a scenic ferry to get there.

Passing the time in the Lærdal hospital waiting room

The doctor on call arrived in casual clothes, with his walkie talkie and was gruff but kind in his way. I wasn’t surprised or happy to hear that my upper arm has a fracture but relieved that I didn’t need surgery…for now.  That would have meant driving two more hours to another hospital.

But now I am stuck with a cast from bicep to wrist on my left arm. It’s heavy and itchy. Painful at times but pain pills are helping and I am trying not to let it get me down. Apparently Norway doesn’t have an opiod issue. My prescription is for dozens of pills. Interestingly, the prescription can be filled anywhere in Norway. I just show up at any pharmacy, show my passport and get. Also, the medical bills came out to about $500/ A bargain compared to the U.S.

Reality bites

The dr mentioned that in July almost all doctors in Norway are on vacation. Not sure why he was available, although he assured me he is a doctor.  He specializes in knee replacements which apparently is big biz in the western fjords, due to the many outdoor activities t popular here. He also sees plenty of tourists like me for the same reason.

We returned home (and Eplet Bed & Apple really feels like home) to kindnesses and concern from other guests. Alain and Christine shared their homemade dinner with us, which was greatly appreciated. I met a mom and daughter who live in Brooklyn but the mom grew up in Des Moines. Small world.

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Filed under health issues, Scandinavia

Thank you Justice Roberts!!

Okay, I know this is a travel blog but I just have to blog briefly about the U.S. Supreme Court’s health care decision (story below) – which is a huge relief and a very pleasant surprise. Thank you Justice Roberts!! I can’t remember the last time a piece of legislation – or a US Supreme Court decision on that legislation – meant so much to me on a personal level. The story below frames the decision as a political victory for Obama. I think it’s a victory for Americans, especially middle class/income Americans.  I remember all too well what it was like to lose employer-provided health insurance several years ago and to be denied coverage by other insurers because I have a pre-existing condition. I also worry a lot about coverage for my young adult children, especially given the precarious job market. And I saw the overemphasis on employer-provided health care as severely limiting the ability of many people (including me) who want to make a change – to move somewhere else and open a small business without risking the loss of insurance.


The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that gives Obama a major election-year victory.

Basically, the justices said that the individual mandate — the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine — is constitutional as a tax.

Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush — provided the key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama’s re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

Obama is expected to comment on the decision within the next two hours.

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Sick from Panama trip

A week ago – in Panama City – I was battling stomach upset that I dubbed “Noriega’s revenge” – kind of reminded me of colonoscopy prep, enough said. But throughout the trip, I was staving off a vague headache, dizziness, and nausea. Oddly, or maybe not, that second batch of symptoms hit me hard about midday yesterday – after several days of feeling just fine. So yesterday I took to bed and spent hours trying to get my room to stop spinning. Today, I’m better but still wobbly. D. had something similar – that didn’t last as long but unfortunately marred dinner for him at the best restaurant we went to during our trip (La Posta – more on that later.) Several other people in our group got ill, ranging from the serious (a bacterial infection that sent one woman to the hospital; a diarrhea bout for one man that his doctor thinks was due to a parasite) to not-so (a little vomiting.)

The big issue in Panama and other Central and South American countries is dengue fever but from what I can tell from reading the symptoms, that’s not what D or I had. D did have a fever and some mosquito bites (which is how you get Dengue fever) but I didn’t. I did read that as of Jan. 17, Panama now offers all tourists free  emergency health care – as an incentive to boost tourism – and maybe that’s more useful than I realized. It’s good for the first 30 day of travel and includes top-level coverage during emergencies (although I see that it doesn’t cover accidents caused by extreme sports – so guess if I’d had a mishap while zip-lining I’d be out of luck…)


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Filed under health issues, Panama anyone?

I’ve just signed on to which promises alerts  and a weekly Top 20 newsletter with great travel deals. But often these deals don’t apply to those of us in smaller markets  (i.e. Des Moines, Iowa). But I figure it’s worth a shot. Thoughts anyone?

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Filed under MONEY & HEALTH

Solving your “chip and PIN” debit/credit card problems abroad

A new product could make life – and a plastic charge card rather than cash – much easier for Americans traveling abroad. A currency exchange company called Travelex has begun selling a preloaded debit card that uses the “chip and PIN” technology (the card has an embedded microchip and a PIN number you have to use, like with a debit card) widely used in Europe – rather than the card common in the U.S. that has a magnetic stripe.

I ran into problems with my magnetic stripe credit card when I was in London a few years ago – a few places, especially those off the tourist beaten path, would not accept my card  because it didn’t have the chip and PIN and they didn’t have the machine needed to process my magnetic strip card. (Before this, I didn’t know I HAD a magnetic strip card.)  We also had some troubles in France with this – at gas stations and paying highway tolls at machines that only accept chip-and-PIN cards.

If I’m reading the NYTimes travel story from Dec. 5 about this correctly, the new Cash Passport smart cards will include both the magnetic stripe and the chip and PIN.  They’ll be sold initially at Travelex airport and retail locations and then early next year online. And they’ll be available in euros or pounds and can be used wherever MasterCard is used.  Word has it there’s no fee to buy or use the card from Travelex but some ATM operators abroad may charge fees.  All good but one question: Why don’t U.S. credit card companies adopt the chip-and-PIN technology which I gather better safeguards us if the card is stolen since people can’t use it without knowing the PIN?

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New York on the cheap

As if.

well everything’s relative and I guess that means New York’s version of cheap is Des Moines’ version of not-so-cheap but that said, the NYT had some suggestions for people visiting the Big City on a Tight Budget:

– The Jane – 113 Jane Street (a very sweet street in the West Village that my cousin used to live on)…”50-square-foot cabins” for $99 a night (that’s a single withe shared bath)…

– The Hotel Chelsea, studio and shared bath for $99…if it was good enough for Sid and Nancy it may be okay for you.

– MOMA is free on Friday nights. Otherwise it’s $25 as I recall painfully.

– for other free events look in the listings of Time Out NY and New York magazine also and

– a seven-day unlimited ride metrocard $27. soon to be $29.


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Filed under cost-saving travel, LODGING, New York City


So i guess there’s a megatrain to go with the megabus in London – not sure how that works but worth finding out, especially since it seems to go to some places I go in England – like Bath.

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Filed under cost-saving travel, England and U.K., train