Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca

At least one Canadian recovering in hospital from injuries sustained in the mass shootings in Las Vegas could face “catastrophic” medical bills. Sheldon Mack of Victoria, who did not buy travel medical insurance for his trip with friends to celebrate his 21st birthday, has had surgery to remove his colon and is waiting to be cleared to travel home.

It’s unclear what Mack’s hospital bill may be or what kind of help he may get from governments in Canada and the United States. But a $25 travel insurance policy could have eased any worries, says travel insurance expert Robin Ingle.

“The cost is low. A young person travelling for a week might be $20 or $25,” he said, with coverage up to C$10 million. A senior might pay $50 or a family can be covered for $100.

That pales in comparison to medical bills, which can mount quickly and drastically, Ingle told CTV’s Your Morning Friday. Specialized surgery can cost up to US$200,000 and each day in a bed is between US$3,000 to $5,000. A simple over-the-counter pain reliever can cost $10.

Hudson Mack, Sheldon’s father, says he fears his son’s intensive medical care will mean a “catastrophic” hospital bill.

“It’s a lesson to Canadians to not cross the border without coverage,” Mack, a former CTV anchor, told The Canadian Press.

Provincial governments will cover some medical costs abroad and many Canadians have employee benefits with travel medical insurance for travel out of province or country, said Ingle.

“The issue with that is you have to know how to activate it and you have to know what’s covered in it. You’ll have to go to your employee benefit administrator or go to your HR department and ask questions. A lot of times it’s hard to find the emergency assistance number and that’s not made easy.”

Additional options include insurance through banks and other financial services providers, CAA, or credit cards. Some providers offer annual travel plans, too.

Ingle, who is CEO of Ingle International, says travellers should be aware of their policy limits. Most will exclude unstable, pre-existing medical conditions and won’t cover risky activities, including hang-gliding, parachuting, scuba diving without certification, or climbing mountains. Travel to dangerous countries is also often not covered.

Ingle expects that in the case of the horror in Las Vegas, in which four Canadians are among 59 people killed and at least six Canadians are among the estimated 515 wounded in a mass shooting at a country music festival, there will be some special compassion shown when it comes to medical bills.

“This is a political issue too. Look in Las Vegas, I think there are more than a million Canadians that go to Las Vegas, they travel there. First of all, Nevada, Las Vegas and the U.S. government won’t want to have a problem with this. The Canadian government also has a program. They’ll apply $10,000 formally towards Canadian victims of crime when they are outside of Canada.”

Ingle also believes American hospitals and healthcare providers will “come to the table on this.”

Nevada also has a fund for victims of violent crime who don’t have insurance.

But Canadians shouldn’t expect much support from their provincial coverage, where the daily coverage ranges from between $50 and $400 depending on the province, Will McAleer, president of Canada’s Travel Health Insurance Association told The Canadian Press.

“The amounts that you’d be paid for under a provincial medical plan are certainly insignificant, they’re almost non-existent.”

He said intensive medical care for an emergency such as a critical gunshot wound can cost upwards of $10,000 an hour as teams of specialists go into action.

“For significant emergencies, it’s not even a fraction of the coverage.”

A number of Las Vegas shooting victims, including Mack, have individual crowdfunding campaigns (https://www.gofundme.com/a-cdn-in-the-us-help-sheldon-mack )set up for them. Money is also being raised online for Ryan Sarrazin of Camrose, Alta., (https://www.gofundme.com/ryan-sarrazin ) who, according to a GoFundMe page, was “seriously injured” after being shot at the concert.

“This fund is to assist medical and travel expenses for Ryan and his family,” Tamara Johnson said on the funding page, which surpassed its goal and now sits at more than $77,000.

Braden Matejka from Lake Country, B.C., has also started a GoFundMe campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/3anau-las-vegas-shooting) with a goal of $25,000, saying on the page that the money will help cover his required time off work and other recovery costs after being shot in the back of the head.

The Las Vegas Victims’ Fund online (https://www.gofundme.com/dr2ks2-las-vegas-victims-fund), set up by an American businessman and politician has already raised more than $9.6 million of its $15-million goal.

An RBC Insurance survey earlier this year found that 75 per cent of Canadians planning to travel internationally in 2017 would purchase travel insurance. A majority of those who said they wouldn’t buy travel insurance indicated they are already covered through employee benefits or a credit card. Another 15 per cent said they were willing to take their chances.

In addition to bill coverage, travel insurance providers will contact next of kin, manage care with doctors and hospitals, and arrange flights home.

With files from The Canadian Press

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