LIVING

Hawaii Birth Leaves Canadian Couple With Million-Dollar Bill

11/18/2014 07:23 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
HUMBOLDT, Sask. - A Saskatchewan mother says she is facing more than $900,000 in medical bills after giving birth unexpectedly in the United States and being told the costs won't be covered by insurance.

Jennifer Huculak was nearly six months pregnant when her water broke while on vacation in Hawaii in October 2013. After a lengthy hospital stay, Huculak's daughter, Reece, was born prematurely and required a two-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Before her trip, Huculak said she purchased Blue Cross insurance and got the green light to travel from her doctor.

"We were told we were covered. We paid our premium. We obviously still feel that Blue Cross should cover the bill," she said, adding her family is now facing bankruptcy.

"It's a very sad position to be in. I wouldn't wish it on anybody."

The total bill of $950,000 included more than $160,000 for Huculak's hospital stay and $40,000 for a medical evacuation, she said. The rest of the cost went to care for Huculak's daughter.

So far, she said Saskatchewan Health has paid for $20,000 of the bill and the U.S. picked up the cost of Reece's delivery, at $12,000. That leaves $918,000, she said.

Blue Cross denied her claim, citing a pre-existing condition.

"I had a bladder infection and I hemorrhaged a bit at four months," she said. "My doctor saw no reason for me not to go.

"We had no questionnaire (from Blue Cross)."

She said her doctor sent a letter to Blue Cross confirming that Huculak's pregnancy was stable when she went on vacation, but the claim was still denied.

"As of March, Blue Cross pretty much washed their hands of the whole case," she said. "We've just kind of been sitting ducks not knowing what to do."

Blue Cross didn't return a call seeking comment.

Huculak said she wants to warn people that "when you think you're covered, you may not be."

"I don't know what I could have done differently. We thought we did everything right," she said.

She said if a doctor told her she had a high-risk pregnancy, she wouldn't have travelled to Hawaii.

"My doctor felt my pregnancy was stable," she said. "Who can pay a $900,000 bill, not to mention the $30,000 it cost us to live down there?" she said. "We're still paying catch up from that."

She added that baby Reece is thriving.

"She's our world. She's a perfectly healthy little baby," she said. "It's been a very stressful year. I think what keeps us going every day is this beautiful little girl that we have," she said.

— By Clare Clancy in Regina

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