HUMBOLDT, Sask. -- A Saskatoon lawyer says a couple who were hit with $900,000 in medical bills after their baby arrived prematurely during a vacation in Hawaii should give serious consideration to simply not paying the bill.
Scott Stanley, a personal injury lawyer, says he has yet to see an American health authority come into Canada to enforce payment, though he adds that doesn't mean they won't.
Darren Kimmel and Jennifer Huculak say they thought they were well covered with travel insurance they had purchased from Blue Cross, but when they filed their claim the company sent them a letter saying it had been rejected.
Even though her doctor had cleared her for travel, Blue Cross said Huculak had a pre-existing medical condition -- she says it was a bladder infection that had caused some bleeding when she was at the four-month point -- and noted their policy expired Nov. 9, 2013.
When Huculak's water broke two days into their vacation, she ended up being airlifted to Honolulu and spent six weeks on bed rest before baby girl Reece was born nine weeks early via C-section.
Kimmel allows they had only purchased two weeks' worth of insurance, saying that's how long their vacation was supposed to last.
Although she is now doing fine, Reece ended up having to stay in the neo-natal intensive care unit in Honolulu for two months.
"When an insurance company sees a bill this size, they're going to be extra vigilant,'' said Steven Lewis, a policy consultant with Saskatoon Health.
"Even if they're generally a good, responsible, and, in this case, non-profit insurer, they may push back.''
Randy Theissen, a manager at an insurance company, said determining what constitutes a pre-existing condition isn't always straightforward.
She said someone could go to the doctor with a headache and be told they're fine for now but they need to have more tests later.
"Then while they're travelling, all of a sudden it's a brain tumour,'' she said. "That's considered a pre-existing condition.''
Theissen said it's important to be thorough with a broker to make sure to be clear on what a policy will or won't cover.
"The doctors aren't going to know what we consider 'pre-existing' all the time because they're not fluent with our wording.''
The couple have been somewhat stunned by the public reaction to their story, including people offering to donate them money and a woman in Manitoba setting up a crowdfunding page in an effort to help them out.
They say if Blue Cross does end up paying, they will donate any money raised to the neo-natal intensive care unit in Saskatoon.
Blue Cross has not commented publicly on the case.
(Global Saskatoon, CTV Regina)
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