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Mom gets hit with $1 million hospital bill after giving birth in the U.S.

Planning a cheeky babymoon before your little one arrives? Think about your destination very carefully, as these families discovered that if your baby arrives early, even comprehensive travel insurance may not be enough to save you from a million-dollar hospital bill.

How did you prepare to celebrate your little one’s first birthday? With a little party? Some cake? A celebration with your family?

That’s how Canadian mom Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel would love to celebrate her baby girl Reece’s first birthday.

But she can’t. She’s still dealing with the emotional and physical fallout of her baby’s premature birth at 31 weeks gestation. As if having a preemie baby brought back to health in hospital during a two-month stay wasn’t stressful enough, she’s also struggling to cope with the financial stress of that birth, which took place while she was on holiday in the United States.

Her daughter’s hospital stay racked up a bill of almost $1 million — and her insurance provider is refusing to pay it.

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“It’s terrifying. You’re on an island, you’re stuck in a hospital, and I wasn’t even allowed to walk out of the hospital,” she told reporters of her unexpected ordeal.

Aside from the fact that $1 million is a ludicrous amount to care for an ill baby for two months (it amounts to almost $20,000 per day), the reason her travel insurance company, Blue Cross, gave for not honouring the claim is hard to swallow.

Because Jennifer had a bladder infection before the trip, the insurance company is claiming she had a pre-existing condition that therefore voided the policy.

“Blue Cross has pretty much washed their hands of it,” Jennifer says.

In a statement, the insurer confirmed its position, stating, “We are confident that our decision to decline this claim was done in a considered manner, based on the contract terms, the situation that resulted in this emergency claim, and recent medical history.”

Not the first time

It’s not the first time a mom-to-be has run into serious financial trouble due to an early labour taking place while on holiday, especially in the United States, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

Earlier this year, Jayne and Ashley Wren were vacationing in Fiji and had to find AU$60,000 (CA$58,000) to cover the early arrival of their baby girl Maddi, who arrived unexpectedly at 33 weeks. Tragically, Ashley died shortly after the family returned home.

Also this year, an Australian woman vacationing in Bali gave birth two months prematurely and not only had to deal with to-ing and fro-ing with her insurance provider for financial coverage, but the medical resources available in Bali were not sufficient. She and her baby were sent home to Perth, Australia, on a charter flight at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, which her insurers ultimately covered.

In the U.K., a couple who travelled to Boston and delivered their daughter, Eve, three months early were also astonished to be served a 270,000-pound hospital bill (CA$480,000).

In 2012, an Australian couple vacationing in Canada were slugged with an AU$1.1 million bill (CA$1.05 million) after mom Rachel went into labour at 26 weeks. Their baby girl Piper was fortunately healthy but required three months of intensive care. The hospital has kindly allowed the family to pay off their debt at a rate of $300 per month, meaning the debt will be repaid sometime around the year 2290.

Meanwhile, Jennifer has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay the medical bills. If this doesn’t work out, she has said her next option is to file for bankruptcy.

It’s yet another example of how messed up the U.S. health care system is and how fortunate we are to have a productive and efficient system in Canada.

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