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Pitfalls of health insurance explored

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WELCOME LATITUDE 20 RESTAURANT as a sponsor. See story below





BUSINESS EXCHANGE NIGHT is tonight, Feb. 28, from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at Colegio Ingles in Playa del Carmen. The first such night sponsored by “Negocios Unidos” (United Business) provides the opportunity for international and local business networking. All invited. Entrance fee of 150 pesos includes alcoholic drink, hors d’oeuvre and more.

COLONOS ASSEMBLY will tackle just one issue – beach replenishment and its funding – at9:30 a.m. (first call) Saturday (March 2) in the Colonos Meeting Room adjacent to the office. It is an opportunity for stakeholders to hear first-hand the technical plans for the reclamation of Omni Beach, its funding process and requested guaranteed beach access for stakeholders among other issues concerning the proposal. Developer Roman Rivera Torres will make the presentation with the assistance of technical experts.
A VIVA VOCE concert, 6 p.m., March 2, Oasis Tulum Hotel. Ensemble of area music teachers. Tickets 200 pesos at Hotel Akumal Caribe office in Akumal under the arch. Proceeds benefit Otach Paal Montessori School in Akumal Pueblo.

The Colonos alerts residents in the wake of an attempt to steal a wallet from an elderly gentleman in a local restaurant last week, to be aware of their surroundings and secure their pocketbooks/wallets when shopping, dining out or walking in crowds. Use common sense precautions.


Health care talk attracts more than 60 

Problem is less about good care

and more about iffy insurance



     More than 60 Puerto Aventurans waded into the complexities of local health care and insurance coverage options at a meeting Tuesday in the Colonos Room that unveiled pleasant and not-so-pleasant information for expats and snowbirds.
While speakers, including U.S. consular agent Samantha Mason and others confidently lauded the level of health care providers here and in Playa del Carmen, insurance coverage was another matter. We learned that “free” Mexican health care for expats is “a myth” according to Mason. And while private insurers are offering health care coverage to expats and snowbirds for chunks of time – three months, six months – that coverage is NOT available to gringos 65 and over unless they are renewing a policy purchase before they turned 65.
Time and again in my line of work I have seen situations where the lack of proper medical coverage becomes both life threatening and financially devastating. My hope is that the folks present will take the time to analyze their current coverage  and see if there is anything they could do to improve it. You have no idea how many times I hear, ‘I just thought I was covered, if I had only known’”, Mason said after the meeting.
       Other coverage options were discussed, such as U.S. supplementary and/or travel insurance, something that individual buyers working with their primary insurers need to – and should – ferret out for themselves.

The good news is that the Mexican Red Cross established a clinic in the former police station building in the Puebla last September. It is offering top grade emergency ambulance service to all Puerto Aventurans, Akumalians and Paamulians  whether or not they can pay for the service along with drop-in clinic.
Dr.Nadine Rendon, who is on the clinic staff of three doctors and six paramedics,, and Teresa Jimenez Rodriguez, chair of the Lady Volunteers in Playa,  said the Red Cross handles an emergency by first stabilizing and delivering the patient to the hospital of his or her choice and then leaves it up to the patient to decide on a donation for the service.
At that point, one man in the audience who recently needed the ambulance lauded the service and asked where he could make a donation. This prompted several other testimonials to the Red Cross by those who have used it here. Chac Hal Al resident Doe Stowell, who also used the emergency service recently, emphatically noted, “The system works!” and offered with wit her presence as proof.

Without diminishing the level of service provided by other private or public clinics, hospitals and ambulance services, the speakers left a solid impression that the best choices for expats in emergencies here are the local Red Cross ambulance and Hospiten, which operates a modern, well-equipped hospital in Playa del Carmen and a more comprehensive one in Cancun.
The audience was told some fee-for-service ambulances here will take you to a hospital with which it has a pecuniary association rather than to one a patient would prefer. Further, people calling an ambulance other than Red Cross via the public emergency number –066 -are subject to being taken to the next hospital on the ambulance service rotation list and not necessarily the nearest one.
By calling the Red Cross emergency number directly – 065 – the patient is taken to the hospital of his or her choice. The Red Cross has six ambulances covering its regional district that stretches from Puerto Morelos to Akumal.
Hospiten was touted by speakers as the hospital of choice for expats because, aside from 24/7 staffing and modern facility, it is pleasantly bi-lingual, works well with the Red Cross ambulance staffs, documents all billing comprehensively to ease the way for reimbursements from U.S. and Canadian insurers and has a two-tier payment schedule with lower payments for residents ranging from 400 to 700 pesos per visit. A resident is described as one who owns property. In the case of Puerto Aventuras, the Colonos “propietario” card is sufficient proof for Hospiten.

Dalit Lava, representing the Hospital, did a yeoman’s job describing the complexities of international insurance coverage for expats. She underscored Consular Agent Mason’s goal to “…get local area expats to take a look at their particular medical insurance situation and identify any weaknesses or gaps that could devastate their health or pocketbook in the case of an unforeseen injury or illness as well as to introduce them to some of their options for medical care and insurance.”
Centro resident John Schwandke, who coordinated the speaking  program, noted after the meeting that some $3,400 from last year’s charity golf tournament was used to purchase equipment chosen by Red Cross doctors here to better serve the public on both sides of the highway. There will be a presentation ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at the Red Cross in the Pueblo and all are invited. The Red Cross is not government subsidized and relies on donations to carry on its services.
The talks ran for more than two hours and were embellished by demonstrations  of the Red Cross ambulance and equipment outdoors. The Pelican Free Press will continue to present more detailed information on the subject as space permits in future editions.
If the intent of the meeting was to create confidence in the certified and constantly training staff of the Red Cross, the “fit” of Hospiten and expats and the pitfalls of unanalyzed health care insurance coverage, it certainly succeeded.

Oscar Night draws glamour to Puerto Aventuras

By Staff
It was unusual to see a large bus drive cautiously down Bahia Yalku Sunday evening and deposit more than 30 fashionably clad ladies and gentlemen on the red carpet in front of a tastefully decorated home where they joined other guests arriving by car.

That’s the home of David Vazquez, who for 13 years has been lavishly creating the Hollywood illusion of Oscar Night right here in Puerto Aventuras for invited guests. The event is not only a posh social but a charitable event as well to benefit the Tierra de Animales foundation.
Besides the red carpet and a nonchalant Spaniel named Gala sitting on it, guests, laughing, smiling, hugging and giddy in anticipation of watching the awards ceremony on large TV sets were also

greeted by this community’s version of paparazzi – a few professional photographers and lots of folks flashing their iPhones and iPads to capture the moment.
Adding to the glamour of the evening were sisters Paola, left, and Abril Allende (above left) of Cancun flashing abundant poise and style that proves that it isn’t all in Hollywood. “We’re just fans,” quipped Paola when they were mistaken for movie stars.  The Oscar statue that used to adorn the outside of the house in years past has moved inside the great room where it is cozier.

Columnist Esteban Torres once wrote about the party when it was in its infancy: (translated from Spanish) “It all started as an excuse to see the best of cinema awards among friends and gradually grew into a big party, whose code was and is so far to come dressed in tuxedo and gowns signed by some designer, jewelry, elaborate hairstyles and all production that characterizes Hollywood stars, keeping the right proportions…” And so it was Sunday evening.

Commerce Corner…

Latitude 20 owner personifies ‘community’

By Staff
     Jamaican-born, New York City-raised Peter Metrick has a penchant for doing extraordinary things. When he went into the Vietnam-era U.S. Army, regular infantry wasn’t enough, so he joined the Rangers.

After the Army. he attend the “RCA Institute for TV Production” in New York to satisfy his curiosity about theater arts, and studied with people from the popular “Sesame Street” children’s show. “I took to directing and wanted to see if that would be my calling,” he said said last week at his Latitude 20 Restaurant overlooking the dolphin-populated “Lagoon of Dreams.”
But the call of the cradle trumped city life and Metrick, an affable and attentive host often seen  trading wits with patrons, returned to Jamaica where he was born. He opened a casual restaurant where his family ran a small resort on a stretch of family-owned beach. Over the next 20 years the business grew into a beach bar and string of cabanas as divers and recreational sailors discovered a new paradise. He put his training at RCA to work and joined up with the iconic Bob Marley among others directing reggae performances, which he still does here at Latitude 20.

After 20 years of that and seeking a new adventure, Metrick came to the Riviera Maya and became an integral part of Puerto Aventuras’ development. “There were probably only 50 people here,” he said, when he opened his first PA restaurant 25 years ago. It was called the “Papaya Republic” and was situated in a stone house where Villa del Mar II now sits.       As development spread, Peter moved adjacent to the Dreams Hotel, across the bridge, and opened the first Latitude 20 Restaurant there. He accessorized the place with basketball and volleyball courts for that little extra Metrick touch.

Competing with the developing Centro area, he launched a free water taxi service to carry visitors from Centro to Latitude 20 and let the pull of his friendly personality, good service and decent prices create a loyal, local clientele.

There followed a two-year hiatus to Tulum, then a return here and the opening of Latitude 20 again adjacent to the boat ramp. Last summer he moved again to the lagoon area where he now operates what he likes to describe as a “community” restaurant aimed at residents, though he gets his share of visitors, he says.
The sense of community is expressed by his Friday morning cooking classes, having a local youth band, the “Salsa Kids,” appear intermittently to gain experience; meal delivery service at night and closing up to feed sailors in the recent regatta. Coming soon, he says, is a free golf cart shuttle service and a round-the-world cookbook along latitude 2o, which is the route followed by the restaurant’s cooking class. His goal is reminiscent of the Cheers TV theme song: “Sometimes you like to go where everybody knows your name.”
The eatery’s food, service and prices get constant high marks from travelers in TripAdvisor and other travel-guide reviews.
Latitude 20 Restaurant along with Peter’s banter and repartee are welcomed as a sponsor of the Pelican Free Press.


In Case You Want To Know…

LIONFISH: “Eat ‘em to beat ‘em”

By Staff
      CBS ran a feature last week on the colorful killer we all know around these parts as the “lionfish.” It has a reputation and voracious appetite for decimating coral fish populations along reefs, including our own here on the Riviera Maya.

There have been contests in this area for divers to capture as many lionfish as they can and they, like similar contests in the Florida Keyes, have yielded good results, but perhaps not enough to stem the spreading population of these interlopers from other seas.
Maintaining the indigenous fish populations in area reefs for recreational diving is an important part of the Rivera Maya’s revenue strategy,but a sustained economic incentive for capturing lionfish has been absent…until now. What the CBS show revealed is the reprise of an old Cuban tenet that says something like “if you can’t beat it, eat it.”
So the Key Largo, Fla. based Reef Environmental Education Foundation has published “The Lionfish Cookbook” which has 45 recipes for the mild flavored fish plus tips on how to handle them without getting injured from their venomous spines.Proceeds from the sale of the book go to support REEF’s marine conservation and lionfish research activities.

The mane-like assemblage of spines that give the fish its lion-like appearance are tipped in poison that can cause severe pain, swelling, nausea, headaches and convulsions in humans. However, the fish can be safely handled once the spines have been removed. Many people filet lionfish and cook them up just like any other fish. Several chefs in Puerto Aventuras say they have cooked the fish creatively for a delightful meal.
Observers in Florida, where many derbies have yielded hundreds of lionfish, say that if a local market for lionfish as food could be developed, the fish population could be locally controlled. Perhaps there is a message there for the Riviera Maya?

Meanwhile, students of Sustainable Tourism and Gastronomy of the University of the Caribbean talked to high school students on Isla Mujeres last week concerning the consumption and preparation of lionfish.
        Biologist José Ángel Cohuo Colli told the high school students that the project now being undertaken by the University of the Caribbean is to reduce the spread of lionfish since it is not native to the Caribbean.
He said activities and joint projects aim to promote consumption of lionfish as an important alternative to regulate their presence on the island coasts, as it is a serious threat to local wildlife.For more cookbook information, email [email protected] orhttp://www.reef.org/catalog/cookbook.


A note of appreciation to lecture helpers…

Dear Editor:
A great big hug and a heartfelt thank you for those who are really responsible for the success of the El Mirador Basin Project lecture by the eminent archeologist and director of this international project, Dr. Richard Hansen.
His determination, dedication, brilliance, vision, delightful unwavering manner, humanitarianism and the project are very compelling. This is a very caring community and I would like to thank : Debbie and Tim Howard, John Schwandke, Tara Belt, Lenore Dechtman, Paul Gauvin, Bob Hilton, Jan Paquette, Bev Porter, Dr. Richard Hansen, Jody Hansen, Weston Hansen. Without my dear friend, Claudia Munoz, and her support, details, picking up lots of pieces, this event would not have happened.  I am grateful to all of you.   Fondly,
Doe Stowell

…and a plea for return of a lost turquoise quilt…

Dear Editor:
     My son was driving my golf cart with clean laundry on board and a turquoise quilt that was given to me by a dear friend fell off the cart and he didn’t notice until he got home. He turned around and followed his route but someone had already picked it up. I’m not sure if you publish this sort of thing but if you do the finder could give me a call at 984 108 0873, It’s return would be greatly appreciated!

Signed/Joanie MacDonald

…and a call to stall wave runner bay use

Dear Editor:
     I have been a PA resident for 20 years. The understanding here has always been that boats or wave runners with motors are not allowed inside the reef and within the bay. That is a necessary and sensible safety and aesthetic prohibition. Colonos authorities need to make this policy clear to Skidoo operators and small craft boaters. If not, we are going to have a regrettable accident some day.

Signed/James Pavlakis

Church Services…


FELLOWSHIP CHURCH PAAMUL–    Non-denominational  English worship Service is at 9:00 a.m Sundays in Paamul at the Palapa Church and at 10:45 a.m. at the Hacienda Real Hotel, Avenida 10 and Calle10 in Playa del Carmen.
LIGHTHOUSE CHURCH TULUM – “Lighting the way to Life” English worship Service is non-denominational, 10:00 a.m. Sundays with continental breakfast at 9:30; located on Highway 307, 1.2 miles past San Francisco grocery, hospital and Subway, next door to fruit stand.


Phrase a week … By Gloria Contreras, state certified interpreter

Busy as a bee: “ocupado como una abeja” Anyone interested in learning the language can please contact Ms. Contreras by email at [email protected] or Cel: 984-108-3517 so she can prepare materials in advance.
(Classes are from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Tiramisu Restaurant and all are welcomed to attend. The fee is $150 pesos per session.

What’s Playing…

See for yourself what’s showing at the local movie houses in Playa del Carmen at the links below.
Centro Maya: http://cinemex.com/

Las Americas: http://www.cinepolis.com/_CARTELERA/cartelera.aspx?ic=70#Cine215

Briefly noted…

Compiled from staff, contributor and media reports

OWNER PROTEST closed the 1oth Avenue entrance to Playacar for an hour this week when the vigilance committee chair refused to listen to pleas for a change in management company. The move angered drivers that had to be re-routed but did get the vigilance committee chair to show up and promise some action on the request…JEAN MICHEL COUSTEAU, son of famed scuba diver Jacques Cousteau, will narrate a documentary to be shot in April along Cozumel reefs for distribution to the U.S.,   film festivals and theater tours…UNPLEASANT ODOR along 5th Avenue that engendered complaints from businesses is thought to be from stagnant cenote water that has somehow become blocked in the area…TWO CUBS , an albino tiger and a leopard, were confiscated by authorities from a site on 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen between 1th and 16th Streets at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. They were being used to pose for photos with tourists… HEALTH OFFICIALS worried about heat stroke  in Q. Roo are urging residents to reduce exposure to the sun and stay hydrated as expected hot weather begins to arrive…THE STATE reports there are 6,300 tax delinquents in the municipality of Solidaridad, which includes PA. The delinquents include professionals, businesses and individuals…A FATAL ACCIDENT on Route 307 between Puerto Aventuras and Playa del Carmen occurred last week when a dual-trailer truck blocked both lanes, helping cause a crash in which a representative of the public prosecutor died…MOST INSURED properties in Mexico are in Quintana Roo, which has suffered major losses in the past from hurricanes.  Of  28 million-plus occupied homes in Mexico, just 2% are insured against theft, fire or natural disasters and 50 percent of those are in Quintana Roo, reports the Mexican Association of Insurance and Bonds Cancun (AMASFAC)… 

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