November 20, 2014

J. Scott Stanley



I was recently approached to comment on a story that has captivated online audiences. The story is fairly simple. Jennifer Huculak and her husband left for a Hawaiian vacation in October of 2013. At the time, Jennifer was 24 weeks pregnant. Planning ahead, the couple purchased travel insurance for their trip from Blue Cross. They met with the insurance broker and were asked a series of questions and answered them honestly. At one point, the broker asked Jennifer if she was 32 weeks pregnant. Jennifer answered no, the couple’s travel insurance was approved and they left to enjoy a relaxing week in Hawaii.

While on vacation, Jennifer prematurely gave birth to a baby girl. The result was that the Huculak’s new daughter, Reece, required a two-month stay in a neonatal intensive care unit to regain her health. Despite her early arrival, Reece was eventually strong enough to return with her parent’s to Saskatchewan. There was a happy ending. Reece was healthy and the couple had the foresight to purchase travel insurance. The couple returned back to Saskatchewan excited to start their new lives as parents.

Then the medical bill arrived. The hospital was attempting to charge the Huculak’s $950,000 for the birth and care of Reece. As it turns out, Blue Cross had decided to deny Jennifer coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition: Jennifer had had a bladder infection and a small hemorrhage at the four month mark of her pregnancy. Despite Jennifer’s physician writing to Blue Cross to confirm that her pregnancy was stable when she went on Vacation, the claim was still denied.

Although Saskatchewan Health has agreed to pay $20,000 of the bill and the US has agreed to pay the $12,000 cost of Reese’s delivery, the Huculak’s remain $918,000 in the red.

Unfortunately, the Huculak’s story is not uncommon. The Daily Mail reported a similar incident in 2002. In that case, Jonathan Miller’s daughter was born prematurely with an underdeveloped heart while the couple was on holiday in the UK. The insurance company that sold the Miller’s their travel insurance similarly refused to cover the cost of care for the Miller’s premature daughter resulting in a £270,000 bill.

Travel Insurance Tips

One question you might be asking is, “How do I avoid a similarly outrageous international medical bill?”

As I have previously explained, the best way to protect yourself is by properly understanding your policy – and any exclusions that might apply – BEFORE you leave on your trip. Too often consumers purchase their travel insurance without reading over any of the fine print. As a result, they fail to realize that certain injuries or medical emergencies might not be covered given a particular set of circumstances. It’s also critical that consumer’s fill out any medical questionnaire associated with their travel insurance honestly and correctly. It is important to be mindful that even an innocent mistake can void an individual’s coverage entirely.

More Information on Travel Insurance

For accurate information on your travel insurance, it might be worthwhile to contact a licensed insurance broker to look over the terms of your travel credit cards and any existing policies you might have as part of your homeowner’s plan to determine whether additional coverage is necessary.

If you feel like you might have a travel insurance claim, contact Murphy Battista LLP to set up a free consultation.

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