Travel

Ontario family dodges $46,000 bill for surgery in Mexico thanks to travel health insurance

By: Lisa Coxon on March 22, 2019

Two Oakville, Ont., parents were spared having to foot the bill for a $46,000 surgery after their eight-year-old daughter required an emergency appendectomy while the family was on vacation in Mexico last week.

Minal and her husband told CTV News.ca that they don’t usually purchase travel health insurance, but for this trip, they did buy a plan that, thankfully, covered their daughter, Hannah, too.

After Hannah began complaining of stomach pains, Minal and her husband took her to the resort’s on-site doctor, who then referred her to a local private hospital in Puerto Vallarta. After Minal and her husband charged $4,000 to their credit card to get the first CT scan, their daughter was diagnosed with appendicitis and taken into surgery.

Minal said the experience was a “big eye-opener.” Everything from blood tests to choosing a hospital room had to be cleared with their insurance company first.

“As parents, we were both really freaked out because we’re in a foreign country [and] we don’t speak the language,” said Minal. Fortunately, their daughter's doctors spoke English.

Once Minal and her husband found out how much the surgery would have cost them without insurance — a whopping $46,000 — they couldn’t believe it.

“I have to say, in retrospect, thank God,” said Minal.

The family’s doctor, Dr. Rick MacDonald, said this price is “extraordinary” and “fairly excessive.”

“When they told me the price I literally fell onto the floor,” he said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca.

“But that’s the kind of thing you’re going to have to expect because you’re in a predicament where you don’t have much of a choice,” MacDonald said. “If your appendix ruptures, then you’re in big trouble.”

This experience has forever changed the way Minal views travel insurance. “I don’t think I will ever travel for pleasure again without having travel medical insurance,” she said. “Especially with kids.”

Travel insurance will cover you for a variety of things, like trip cancellation, medical issues and hospitalization, baggage loss, and flight delay. Travel medical insurance, in particular, is something experts strongly recommend purchasing before going out of country. It’s crucial to call your insurance company immediately upon hospitalization, like Minal and her husband did, or you risk your claim being denied.

Minal and her husband are hoping their story will serve as a teachable moment for other Canadian travellers. And so is their doctor.

MacDonald has been sharing Hannah’s story on Twitter to warn his followers about the risks of travelling without insurance.

“Many of our patients travel all the time and I’m sure that many of them don’t take out travel insurance,” he told CTVNews.ca. “I’m sure most people don’t do it.”

 

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