Alta has been Busy welcoming guests to Cuenca, Ann is just Busy

Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is on its way. I am not ready for Christmas. I still have the tablecloth on the dining room table from Thanksgiving, (yes, it does need a wash) and I finally got rid of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers that I forgot to freeze. I don’t have any decorations up yet and I haven’t gotten any Christmas presents either. Yipes! I better get moving!

I cooked 2 turkeys and a ham for Thanksgiving as we were hosting about 18 people…all friends with no close family nearby, just like us. We had a blast! Everybody brought something to share, either a side dish, beer and wine or a dessert.  I also made a pumpkin pie.  While my turkeys and dressing and potatoes were all delish, I impressed myself mostly with my decorative and yummy pie! Loads of spices and a bit of cream made the pie so good.

Note to self: I cooked for 2 days. Never again. Can we come to your house in Cuenca for Thanksgiving next year, Alta? I’ll make a pie.

Ann's Pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving

Here in the states, I have been busy for the last couple of months working with my Medicare Advantage customers and their insurance decisions during the annual Medicare election period (for 2012) that ends today. In Texas, most Medicare Advantage (or part C) plans require no additional premium other than Medicare’s part B premium which is usually deducted from social security earnings. I’ve pondered the options for medical insurance (and particularly Medicare coverage) for those expats who are over 65 and eligible for Medicare. I haven’t found any blogs that have discussed whether expats are maintaining Medicare Part A & B coverage while they are residing in Ecuador, or choosing to disenroll from Part B.

I also wonder if those who are actually continuing to have Medicare Part B premiums deducted from SS wages know that if they don’t enroll in a Medicare Part D (Prescription drug plan) when initially eligible will pay a penalty at a later date when (if) they do choose to enroll when (if) they return stateside.

In addition, certain retirement plans obtained through employers often neglect to inform retirees that coverage is only supplemental to Medicare Parts A & B, and that if the retiree doesn’t continue Medicare Part B enrollment (and pay the monthly premium for Part B) that the retiree will have gaps in coverage. This type of retiree plan will only pay for what wouldn’t be paid by Medicare, even if you don’t have Medicare Part B. A client discovered this when retiring from a state employee plan; he complained to me that the wife’s doctor bills were outrageous, and why wasn’t his retiree plan paying for them? I asked if they had continued Part B coverage and if they were paying the premium. He said, no, we didn’t think we needed both Medicare Part B as well as the retiree plan. The outcome was that he re-enrolled himself and the wife back into Medicare Part B (they had to wait until an enrollment period came along after a few months) and they are now paying a penalty for not being enrolled (or continuously enrolled) when originally eligible.

I’m also pondering the options and viability of being able to purchase a Medicare Part C (Advantage) Plan (that includes the Part D-RX drug coverage) at age 65 (note: must be a resident of the service area of the plan when enrolling) and continuing Medicare Part B premium but having no extra premiums to pay. This would allow a person to have U.S.A. full coverage if the worst happens and if the need to return to the home state arises. Medicare Advantage plans require that the member live/reside in the service area, and medical coverage outside of the U.S.A. is not covered. However, I haven’t found an answer to my query whether it’s kosher to maintain said coverage while actually residing overseas and returning to the States at least once a year for an annual exam (which is usually covered at no cost under the plan). Note: a U.S. physical address is required to maintain a Medicare Advantage plan.

Here’s my thoughts: A person, age 65 or better, has full Medicare & Part B premiums which are paid by a deduction from Social Security wages. Said person enrolls in a Medicare Advantage plan with RX drug coverage for no extra premium. Completes the Medicare sanctioned annual exam before traveling. Travels to foreign country, and perhaps purchases some form of travel medical or evacuation insurance plan, for emergency purposes. Stays (resides) in foreign country, and will either pay for medical care in country as needed or use the travel medical plan.

Anybody out there reading this blog see a problem with or hiccups to my theory? Would love to hear from you. My thought is to have the best of both worlds, while shelling out minimum premium payments. After all, moving to Ecuador is supposed to be kind on the pocketbook.

Meanwhile, Alta has hosted many family members visiting Cuenca and has been busy helping new expats with their move into Alta’s condo building and nearby. Hubby & I are counting on the fact that Alta and her hubby will be such seasoned expats in Ecuador by the time we get to Cuenca (as they will have helped to smooth the transition for so many other expats) that we won’t be allowed to make any gringo mistakes. I hear they’ve been to many parties and fiestas and parades in Cuenca….I hope they think of me next time they are @ Bananas….

Favorite breakfast @ Bananas


10 responses to “Alta has been Busy welcoming guests to Cuenca, Ann is just Busy

  1. Pingback: Morning Update – Thursday, December 22, 2011 « South of Zero

  2. I don’t know who I’m sending this to so I hope someone reads it and responds to my questions/comments.

    Who is Alta and how do I get in touch with her?

    My husband and I are heading for Cuenta around 11/1/2012. We’ll be there approximately 2 months. The reason for going is to explore the area and find out if this is where we want to retire.

    We haven’t found a place to stay for Nov/Dec so I’m hoping Alta can provide guidance.

    Thank you in advance for respoinding.

    Linda Watkins

    • Ann and Alta prefer to keep their “identities” anonymous within wordpress as this blog goes out internationally and we are, I admit it, somewhat paranoid.

      My advice to you regarding searching for something to rent in Cuenca are the following:
      1) visit for a listing of available rentals,
      2) reserve a room at one of the hostals or hotels in town for a week or 2 and while you are there,(Villa Nova Inn is in a central location and reasonably priced), then ask around wherever you go (Carolina Bookstore next to Bananas just off Calle Larga is a good place to start)
      3) check the local newspapers and find a taxi driver who speaks english who can help you find the locations,
      4) read http://www.cuencahighlife and while there, sign up for the daily email digest, (and you can place an ad on gringo tree for a rental request.

      The first time we went to Cuenca, I googled “short term rentals in Cuenca, Ecuador” and found a wonderful, gorgeous and very comfortable condo for the four of us, close to the center of town, right on the river. After staying there, we were lucky enough to make the acquaintance of the owners who are now good friends of ours. You will make many friends in Cuenca, just be friendly yourself and you will love it!

    • Thank you for the quick response. We are very excited about exploring Ecuador and look forward to following up on your suggestions.

  3. I’m Rick, Linda’s husband. We have selected an apartment rental with for our two-month stay. They want an $850 deposit in advance and then both months rent upon arrival and have stated we will get back the deposit upon departure. The deposit in addition to advance rent seems excessive. Does this seem normal and is Cuenca Rentals a reliable firm that we can trust?

    Thanks for any opinions.

    • How much is your rental monthly? I haven’t heard anything negative about Cuenca Rentals. For a 2 month stay for $850 monthly, I don’t really think that is excessive, it may just be that people in the past have skipped out on either the last month’s rent. I also know that some gringos with rentals have had bad experiences with renters trashing places and skipping away. And since the renters tend to leave the country, it’s hard to find them after. Ecuador’s rental laws do favor the renter, not the owner, so this seems to be the best way to protect the owner’s property. Where is your rental? I hope you have a wonderful stay! be sure to try Bananas for breakfast; La Maison for a fancy dinner!

      • Thanks so much for your fast response. The unit is #124 at It’s apparently located at Eduardo Crespo Malo y Lamar, above Gran Columbia y Universidad Nacional. The rent is $850 per month which is why I thought a security deposit in the same amount was a little high. Not everyone recommends renting through agencies and I didn’t want to run into a situation where they find some excuse not to refund our deposit.

      • Did you mean I cannot seem to find a
        If I remember correctly, there’s a Friday night happy hour at Zoe’s and many people tend to congregate at either Bananas, Coffee Tree, and others for breakfast. You might want to check on, they often have good Cuenca News. Also this site: always has lots of helpful information. As always, I do not endorse nor can I verify the validity of anything in either one of those sites, but they can help to direct you in a certain way.

      • Boy, did I mess up! The correct website for the agency that we are dealing with is

  4. As a follow-up question, are there any expat social gatherings we could attend to meet other expats and learn the ins and outs of living in Ecuador?

    Thanks again.

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