Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Million-Dollar Baby

"It’s a very sad position to be in. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody."
"I had a bladder infection and I hemorrhaged a bit at four months. My doctor saw no reason for me not to go."
"We had no questionnaire [from Blue Cross]."
"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."
"My doctor felt my pregnancy was stable. Who can pay a $900,000 bill, not to mention the $30,000 it cost us to live down there? We’re still paying catch up from that."
"I guess our next steps are whether or not we proceed with the lawyer. We have a couple decisions to make here in the next day or two and we'll see what becomes of it."
 Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, Saskatchewan
Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel
Saskatchewan resident Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, left, gave birth to Reece nine weeks early while in Hawaii. (David Shield/CBC)

If only we mortals could look into the future, how different our decision-making and our actions might be. We would be enabled for one thing to prepare for all contingencies. Avoidance of unnecessary stress and misfortune would be priceless. But we can't even look as far ahead as two days' time to guide, inform and warn us of untoward plans best left unfulfilled in the prevention of untoward events.

On the other hand, sometimes a little common sense will fill the gap of not being capable of foreseeing certain events. That's why we look both ways before crossing the street. It's why we're careful, if we're prudent, not to spend more money than we have available at any given time. It's why we carefully consider what might conceivably go wrong if we embark on a venture that might have consequences we'd prefer to avoid.

That said, most of us tend to think that nothing can go wrong, if we really look forward to doing something. And Jennifer Huculek, pregnant six months, thought evidently that she had months to spare, and in the interim she and her husband Darren Kimmel could embark on a bit of a vacation. To some expectant parents it might seem prudent to remain put until the pregnancy was over, the child delivered to their waiting arms.

To others, obviously, the desire to celebrate unencumbered for the last time before a birth, might appear too attractive to pass up. Having had a bladder infection, and some bleeding during the pregnancy might not appear too serious, but perhaps in the interests of a trouble-free pregnancy caution might have been prescribed, although the Hucelek-Kimmels, husband and wife, felt they were home-free on the issue.

Particularly as they went to the trouble of procuring travel insurance. But when, two days after arrival in Hawaii, the pregnant woman's water broke and she was taken to hospital, the situation turned fairly serious. She was there for quite the stay, the baby was born prematurely and required a two-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. All of which even the village idiot knows is prohibitively expensive. All the costs would have been taken care of had these hospitalizations taken place in Saskatchewan.

But Saskatchewan Blue Cross from whom the travel insurance was taken, cited a "pre-existing condition" to render them ineligible for coverage to pay the whopping hospital-medical bill they faced of almost a million dollars. The bladder infection that had surfaced before the pregnancy was the culprit, so obviously that complication is not viewed as innocently harmless to the pregnancy as the prospective parents believed it to be.

Indeed, when the pregnant woman was hospitalized reflecting a pregnancy emergency, Blue Cross contacted the couple informing them that their coverage had expired even before the baby was born. At that juncture, making arrangements to return to Saskatchewan would have required that a private jet with medical attendants be arranged for, yet another costly prospect whose cost they dismissed.

The parents of the baby have been receiving quite a bit of attention and sympathy.

Even from Blue Cross:

"The challenges facing this family are extraordinary and difficult. As such, we urge Ms. Huculak to have our decision reviewed by an independent ombudsman. OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) is a national independent agency that provides impartial, third party reviews of customer concerns."
Posted to the Saskatchewan Blue Cross website
Saskatchewan Blue Cross stated that the family had been presented with a two-page explanation of its review where it cited nine events that disqualified them from Blue Cross honouring their insurance claim. The family chose not to share the contents of the letter with the media interviewing them and in so doing, disseminating to the wider public the family's financial plight. They are obviously hoping that public pressure through sympathetic censure of Blue Cross will convince the insurer otherwise.

They're looking at a total bill of $950,000 of which about $160,000 represents the mother's hospital stay, $40,000 a medical evacuation, and the remainder the cost to care for the baby in the Hawaii hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Of that total sum Saskatchewan Health, the province's universal health coverage for in-province care has paid $20,000 of the bill while the United States generously paid for the cost of baby Reece's delivery of $12,000.

Hospital-surgical expenses are huge; without insurance coverage they can utterly debilitate a family's savings and future financial prospects. The family has been left with the bulk of the remaining bill of $918,000.

The lessons here are numerous; when pregnant and having experienced some hemorrhagic bleeding during the pregnancy, stay home and close to medical care; a reckless decision to travel regardless should be accompanied with the knowledge that an untoward event would be costly; when purchasing travel insurance: caveat emptor.

Wipe that scowl off your face, and shake your head over unwise decision-making. And consider, perhaps, the offer of pro-bono service from a lawyer willing to take the case. If you think you have a case, other than eliciting sympathy from the public. And continue to treasure your good health, if not wise decision-making. Cherish that healthy, growing baby.

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