Sunday, June 22, 2008

Health Care Options.

Different people come to Kiev and to Ukraine for different reasons. And different people have different health care needs. If you are "legally" employed in Ukraine, you may be covered, although you also might not be. If you are not covered, an employer may make up for that lack of coverage.

Since there are a number of conditions that must be met before you are covered under the universal healthcare given to Ukraine citizens, what are your options if you don't qualify? But before I continue, a disclaimer. I am speaking from personal experience and therefore may not be aware of many requirements and other options available. And I am not familiar with all the requirements of the law. That said, let's continue.

To remain in the country legally, you are required at minimum to purchase what could best be described as catastrophic coverage. This will cover life threatening events only. But at a cost of around $100 USD, it is not a burden for most. But this will not cover more routine medical needs. So, where to go next?

Although probably not an inclusive list, the options that most foreigners opt for come down to AMC - The American Medical Center, Boris, and a pay-as-you-go plan. Now, my main goal here is to let the reader know that there are options available. But I can't even begin to elaborate the similarities and differences between the various options, but here is a quick synopsis.

AMC - Pros:

  • Various insurance plans available.
  • English speaking Doctors, often foreign.
AMC - Cons:
  • A policy buys you less overall coverage than other policies would. ($10,000 USD). Overall this is not as bad as one might imagine, since your healthcare dollars go a lot further here.
  • One location only.
Boris - Pros:
  • Higher overall medical coverage available for a similar cost ($30,000 USD).
  • English speaking translators available.
  • Uses the best available local medical talent.
Boris - Cons:
  • The English speaking translators may not be fluent in medical terminology.
  • Only two locations.
Pay-as-you-go - Pros:
  • No expenses incurred until you need to see a doctor.
  • Good quality care possible at minimal cost.
Pay-as-you-go - Cons:
  • Forget about any language other than Russian or Ukrainian.
  • You need an Ukrainian with insider knowledge of the system to guide you to the best doctors.
So, what have I used up to now? I've had the catastrophic coverage the government requires, but have never needed that. Beyond that, I've had coverage through Boris, and the pay-as-you-go system. I will write more about my experiences there in upcoming posts. Since I recently gained residency, I now have the same universal healthcare available to me that the average Ukrainian receives. Which is not always a good thing, but it is better than nothing at all.

More on my healthcare experiences in upcoming posts.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Victory Day - May 9th 2008

May 9th is the day the people in East Europe celebrate their victory over fascism and Nazi Germany. Being from the states, I figured it would be more than just a Memorial Day or Veterans Day, but didn't quite know what to expect. Here then are a few of my photos of Victory Day, with a bit of commentary on the side.

Larger versions of these photos will be posted over the next few days at my photoblog.

Arrival of Political Parties - I saw a number of the political parties arrive to pay their respects, but did not see representatives of the three largest parties. Not to say they were not there. They may have arrived and left before I got there.

An Officer and a Priest - The juxtaposition between the military and the clergy struck me, but then, there was enough suffering going around during WW2 for everybody to honor.

A Wall of Flowers - I have never seen so many flowers in one place in my life. By the end of the day, they were 4 feet high and 4 feet deep in some areas. There were at least several hundred thousand flowers left around town, if not a million or more.

A Female Veteran - The young man at the left of the picture was reading something to her from that slip of paper, but not being too terribly fluent in the language, I don't know what was said. I do know she started crying afterwards.

A New Friend - My wife and I were going to check on our son, when this veteran stopped us and offered us a drink. My wife wanted to continue on, but I thought it was a good idea to stop and have a shot of cognac and some chocolate with him and a few friends. After a brief conversation, my wife found out that a relative of her late grandfather may be eligible for additional pension benefits. Lesson Learned. Don't waste an opportunity to have a drink and converse with a veteran. You might learn something valuable.

More pictures here...

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Working in Ukraine.

Even though things in general still cost less here than in many parts of the world, unless one is independently wealthy (I wish!!), you will at some point have to deal with making some money. It's not that cheap here. Although there are any number of jobs available for people who know English, including the ever popular "English Teacher, Native Speaker", there are other options. But finding them can be a daunting task if you don't know where to start and you don't know the local language. So, here are a few places you can start. These websites, although mostly in the Ukrainian and/or Russian, have numerous job listings looking for people who know English, and so these jobs are often posted in English.

So, here are a few places to begin. I just set up a search on each site to bring back all job listings that include the word "English". If you see Киев in the listing, you are looking at a job in Kiev.

Now although there are numerous jobs posted in English, this does not mean that as a foreigner, you can get a job and start working, no questions asked. There often are legal issues involved, generally about whether there are Ukrainians qualified to do the job. There often will be.

Happy Hunting!!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Regrets.

As early as 2000, I had given some thought to going overseas to find a wife. The reasons for a decision like this is never easy, and certainly complicated. But it was a certainty that if I were going to find a wife in the states, it would have happened by then. One can spend one's life striking your head against the same wall over and over again, or one can choose to try a different approach. Even I though myself a bit crazy when I first travelled to Ukraine in 2004, but it was truly an adventure of a lifetime, and a chance for a new life. I would do it again in an instant.

So no, I have no regrets.

Is it right for everyone? In a word, No. But here are some statistics to think about if you've ever even though about it for a minute.

But first a note. While the following article mentions Russian women, the same information applies to Ukraine. Why? Because, being next door to Russia, there are many Russian women here. Many consider themselves more Russian than Ukrainian. Including my wife.

Now for the stats.....

1. 79% of Russian women seeking to meet foreign men have never been married.

2. 64% are younger than 30 years of age. Be very attentive with Russian women who are over thirty, and have never been married. These women have pragmatic minds. They have learned many lessons in life, and they may not be as simple as they might appear in the beginning.

3. 90% of the women have higher educations, 12% even have two higher degrees. Many are professionals.

4. 69% of the women have no children.

5. Though almost all Russian women work (or are studying to acquire a profession), only 25% of them have jobs connected with their diplomas. It is so difficult for women to find a well-paying job. Therefore they have to take up any decent paying job to survive. This is a clear indication that Russian women are hard-working, resourceful and often have to rely on themselves in order to survive.

6. Why are they interested in foreign men?

  • 49% claimed that they are fed up with Russian men.
  • 58% believe that foreign men are more serious about their role in family than Russian men.
  • 37% believe that international marriage will help them improve the quality of their lives and their future child's life.
  • 93% will marry only when they know for sure they love the man.

Most Russian women have had unpleasant experiences with Russian men. They believe that foreigners are kinder and more caring, more family-oriented and more organized and serious in their life decisions.

7. When describing the type of man they are looking for, they used the following words:

  • 86% of the women used the word "kind"
  • 68% used the word "caring"
  • 59% would like to find a man who is "family-oriented" and loves children
  • 31% are looking for physically strong and fit men, who like sport
  • 32% are seeking for "serious" men
  • 6% would like to have "practically thinking" husbands
  • 6% would like to meet handsome and charming men
  • 0% mentioned the word "sexy"

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Seven House Calls in Eight Days.

One concern that always arises when you choose to move from one place to another is the quality of health care at your new home. And you don't even have to change countries to have this concern!

Whether your new health care is a pleasant surprise or a nightmare in waiting usually depends on your opinion of your current health care. The better it currently is, the more concerned you will be about health care in your new country.

Health care in the USA is often viewed among Americans as the best there is. No surprise there, since the medical and political establishments heavily promotes it as the best, while never missing a trick to denigrate health care elsewhere. This, of course, assumes that you are among the lucky who actually qualify for the top level health care. If you are among those who get the lower tier care, or no care at all, you may think different, if you can get beyond the propaganda. And in ever increasing numbers, Americans are viewing the current health care system as being in critically ill condition. Me, through most of my adult life, received health care at a higher level than most. So, you'd think I'd be sorely disappointed with health care here in Ukraine... and you'd be wrong.

During the recent flu epidemic, we had doctors visit our house seven times in eight days. Two times for me, two times for my wife, and three times for our son. The minimum time at our house each time was 1/2 hour. And our son, unfortunately, was also in the hospital for two days. My wife and son, being fully qualified for the national health care plan here, had minimal paperwork to hassle with. And even though their medications were generally not covered, they paid nowhere near what medications would cost in the states. The hospitals here, yes, are disappointing. Many date to the Soviet era and have had minimal expenditures or additional capital infusions since. They not only look old; they are old. And you have to supply your own housekeeping. Food? Bring your own. Blankets, sheets, towels? Bring your own again. But by bringing your own, it's a sure deal you'll pay a lot less than you would in a US medical center, where typical rooms and meals cost more than a five star hotel and restaurant. And for a child, one parent should expect to be there in attendance, since you will be doing things a paid hospital staff would be doing in the USA. But the medical care was good.

Me, I'm covered differently here, since I don't yet qualify for the national plan. So, I am required to buy an emergency plan for the national health care, at around $100 a year. Yes, a year. But this only covers emergencies. I also have a supplemental plan, which covers more of the routine things the national emergency coverage doesn't. At around $100 a month, it's much less than I would expect to pay in the states on an individual plan, if I could even qualify. My only hope would be getting a job that offered the coverage. Until now, I've had good fortune in that regard. But that never last forever.

More on health care in future posts....

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sorry for the lack of news.

Wow, this is only my second entry this year. That was never my intent.

I hope to pick up the pace again soon with news of and about Kiev. Stay tuned....

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Ukrainian & Russian Orthodox Epiphany.

Or, as I sometimes refer to it, Insanity as a Spectator Sport.

My wife told me about this event two years ago, but I guess you really have to be there to believe it.

While living in NJ, I remember many times seeing the "Polar Bears" taking an icy swim in the Atlantic on NYC TV. I seemed to remember that it was Russian emigrees who partook of this activity. But on TV, it always seem to be just a few "kooks" doing it. And for one reason or another, I don't remember any mention of a religious aspect to this activity. Maybe TV didn't like the idea of associating religion and swimming in icy weather. Might shed a negative light on religion, I guess. The religious event is the Russian Orthodox Epiphany (probably Ukrainian Orthodox too). The temperature Saturday, a disappointingly mild 26F. Two years ago it was -6F.

I'm sure that in NYC it probably was a rather small happening. Not here...

Setting up the fireworks:

And the religious aspect:

Later, President Yushenko came and took a dip in the icy water himself. Don't have a picture of that, though. Anything to appeal to the religious voters...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12 Days of Kiev.

Ah, the holidays. No matter where you are, there always seems to be more things to do than one has time to do. And here, it's no different. This is true even though December 25th here is just an ordinary working day.

In Kiev, and the whole of Ukraine, the big holiday is New Years Day, January 1st. In pre-Soviet times, January 7th was Orthodox Christmas and January 14th was Orthodox New Year, when compared to the celebrated dates in western Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Early during the Soviet era, the switch was made from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, dropping 14 days, and bringing the civil calendars into sync with most of the remainder of Europe. Later during the Soviet era, religious celebrations were discouraged or suppressed, and in some cases, replaced with a civil holiday instead. Because of the religious background of Christmas, official state celebrations were moved to January 1st, and continues to this day.

So, January 1st, in western terms, is Christmas Day and New Years Day combined. December 25th is a normal working day for most people. Orthodox Christmas and Orthodox New Years are strictly religious holidays. (What a concept. Christmas as a religious holiday).

All of this is just a long way to introduce my year end photo retrospective, the 12 days of Kiev. It's 12 of my best photos of the year from Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine. Please visit it here.

Have a happy holiday, whichever holiday it is that you celebrate, and I look forward to seeing you next year here at My Kiev Journal.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Ukrainian Folk Remedy #1.

It's common that societies and groups with a history going back many hundreds of years or more all have a fair share of folk remedies. And Ukraine is no exception. While there is certainly any number of "modern" remedies available in drugstores, other remedies are often readily available, and often worth a try.

I first became familiar with folk remedies several decades ago while in South Korea. I was using some of the familiar western creams and gels for a particularly difficult rash, but with minimal results. A Korean friend suggested rubbing garlic on it. Ouch! That sounded painful, and it certainly stung for a while. But what do you know. It cleared up the rash much more quickly than the modern remedies did. Now, I'm not suggesting rubbing garlic indiscriminately on just any rash. There are some that will no doubt not react as well as my rash did. But the point is, there are other remedies, some more effective than the modern ones.

So, what's the Ukrainian folk remedy? Cabbage for gout. Yes, I know it sound silly, but even after prior successes with folk remedies, I was skeptical of this one. What could cabbage possibly do? Here's how it works. Take a leaf or two off a head of cabbage, tenderize it with a meat hammer to break up the fibers and get the juices flowing, and wrap it around the affected area. Wrap a cloth around it to keep it in place, and put a sock on over it to keep it warm. (Assuming it's big toe gout, as it is a vast number of times). Then go to bed for the night. With a little luck, the next morning your gout will be less painful. You may need to do this several times over a period of days for greater relief.

Now, I was taking one or more of the usual remedies at the same time, the allopurinol, or the indothemacin, and so some would argue that cabbage had nothing to do with the eventual relief. All I can say to you is "try it". It's known that some remedies that work for some people do not work for others. If it works for you, great. If it does not, don't close your mind to other folk remedies for other conditions. People have suffered pain throughout history; it's normal that people, over time, found remedies in the environment around them to make their existence more pleasurable.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

15th Annual Christmas Charity Drive.

Last Saturday, the International Women's Club of Kiev (IWCK) held it's 15th annual Christmas charity drive, raising (at last count) $75,000 USD for charities. But I'm not writing about the charity per se. It was at this event last year that I first recognized that as a foreigner in Ukraine, I'm often privy to information that the average Kievan never hears about.

I first attended this event last year, having found out about it from friends in the international community. I had been in the country only 15 months at the time. My wife had been in the country well before the IWCK held their first event, and never during the first 13 years knew it existed. But I hear about it not long after my arrival. And, I'm sure that as a foreigner that I'm also equally uninformed about just about everything that goes on in this city.

I guess it's normal after all. During my time in the states, I was equally clueless to numerous neighborhood and cultural events going on right under my nose. I paid attention to what interested me, and a little research turned up almost everything I needed or wanted. But yet, wouldn't it be nice to really know everything that's going on around you? If you just knew it was there, maybe you would find out after all that it does interest you, or that others are interested in the same obscure things that you are? Even if you are 5000 miles from where you called home most of your life.

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