After giving birth to her daughter Reece nine weeks early, Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel of Saskatchewan, Canada, now has a crippling hospital bill to contend with — to the tune of nearly $1 million.
In what led up to the events of her daughter's birth, Huculak-Kimmel seemingly did everything right. Huculak-Kimmel and her husband went on a Hawaiian vacation nine weeks before her due date, with her doctor's blessing and travel insurance.
This "Baby Moon" is not unusual for a couple to take near the end of pregnancy as a last hurrah before a child is born. On the trip, Huculak-Kimmel's water broke, and she also experienced a ruptured membrane. The couple tried to do everything in their power to get back to Canada but continued to hit dead ends.
Huculak-Kimmel told CBC News, "We looked at all avenues to trying to get medevac [an air ambulance] home. One medevac company would not fly me in my condition and the other one would only do it with a surgical team on board and still recommended me not travel."
Huculak-Kimmel spent six weeks on bed rest in the Hawaiian hospital. Her daughter was delivered by emergency C-section on Dec. 10, 2013, and required a hospital stay of two months. The new parents believed that this extensive medical care, estimated at $950,000, would be covered by insurance.
Blue Cross denied payment for several ridiculous reasons. Ultimately, Blue Cross's refusal was blamed on Huculak-Kimmel's bladder infection during her fourth month of pregnancy, which caused some bleeding. The early bladder infection was slapped with a "high-risk pregnancy" label. Blue Cross also pointed out that Huculak-Kimmel's travel insurance expired on Nov. 9, 2013.
These new parents are at an unfortunate crossroads: Should they fight the insurance company or declare bankruptcy? Saskatoon health policy analyst Stephen Lewis sides with the parents. He believes that if Huculak-Kimmel had been given the all-clear to fly by her doctor, then the blame cannot rest on her shoulders.
Every new parent knows how hard it is to deal with insurance during pregnancy, and especially after childbirth. It's a nightmare. In this story, Blue Cross is playing the typical role of the insurance villain. They are also sending an unfair message to pregnant women that perpetuates the body-policing blame game: Do everything perfectly, or you'll have to pay for it.
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