The shooting in Las Vegas last week was a horrific experience for everyone who was there. But many international visitors, and Canadians more than most, are finding themselves taking home a souvenir they never expected: the huge medical bills incurred by those who left home without travel insurance.
An article in The Province this weekend told the tale of Hudson Mack, whose 21-year old son, “like many who make a short trip to the United States,” didn’t think about taking out travel health insurance for what he expected to be a quick hop to see a concert.
“It’s a lesson to Canadians to not cross the border without coverage,” said Mack in an article titled “Huge Medical Bills Are Painful Legacy.” He has not yet received the final bill for his son, who spent days in intensive care after being shot in the forearm and the abdomen — but he is sure it will be “catastrophic.”
Canada’s provincial health insurance policies cover between $50 and $400 a day, not nearly enough in case of serious illness or a stay in the ICU at a U.S. hospital. And the article notes that travel insurance companies do far more than just pay the medical bills; they also contact the next of kin, coordinate with doctors and hospitals, and arrange for a flight home for policy holders who are injured or take ill abroad.
Many of the victims in the Las Vegas shooting likely will get financial aid from the state of Nevada; and Canada has a fund for its citizens who are victims of crimes abroad. Some families have set up their own GoFundMe pages to which people can contribute, or had them set up by friends. But many will likely end up paying far more for their visit to Vegas than they ever expected.
U.S. travelers planning a quick jaunt to Niagara Falls should take note, of course, that the same issue applies to travelers heading north across the border. Medicare, for example, pays for medical treatment outside the U.S. only in odd and exceptional cases, such as if you are passing through Canada on your way home from Alaska; if you get sick in the U.S. and the nearest hospital happens to be in Canada; or if you are on a ship less than six hours from a U.S. port. But “in general, health care you get while traveling outside the U.S. isn't covered," notes Medicare.gov.