Mississauga man owes $800K in medical bills after travel insurance claim denied

Pat Foran, Consumer Reporter, CTV News Toronto

A Mississauga man who took a trip to Las Vegas now owes a U.S. hospital more than $800,000 in Canadian funds after his travel medical insurance claim was denied.

Clifford MacAuley says that when he took his trip in July, he thought he had the proper travel insurance.

When he went to Las Vegas with his brother, MacAuley was recovering from a heart operation that took place two months earlier. Four days into the trip he had a heart attack.

“They took me to the Las Vegas hospital where they pronounced me dead and then they brought me back to life.”

To save his life, doctors had to give MacAuley a pacemaker. They checked to see if he had travel medical insurance before proceeding with the operation—and he did. But while MacAuley was recovering, the hospital told him his medical coverage had been denied.

They gave him a bill for $662,476 U.S., which is equal to $877,207 Canadian.

MacAuley is 68 years old and on a pension. He says he can’t afford to pay the bill.

“I’m not going to freak out because I don’t have it. I have three fender guitars and about 1000 videos. They can take them if they want I don’t care.”

MacAuley paid $116 for the travel insurance policy with RBC. A spokesperson told CTV News Toronto it was a sad situation but that “Mr. MacAuley had pre-existing medical conditions and was on home oxygen prior to travel. This classified him as “not medically stable” in the six months before travel. For these reasons, Mr. MacAuley’s claim was denied.”

A spokesperson for The Valley Health System in Las Vegas said for privacy reasons it could not discuss MacAuley’s case, but did say patients need to contact the billing department to discuss payment options.

RBC said it had to pay $50,000 to fly MacAuley home in an air ambulance. The RBC spokesperson said people need to understand the type of coverage they’re purchasing and that 98 per cent of its travel claims are paid out to clients.

MacAuley says there is no way he can pay the hospital the money.

“Even if I was to live to 150 years old, I just can’t pay it back.”

Blink’s proactive travel insurance moves to Canada

By GlobalData Financial Services

Canada Insurance Giant Manulife has turned to Irish travel insurtech Blink to help it connect to younger, digitally-savvy customers. Blink has established itself through offering proactive travel insurance to customers as it automatically rebooks cancelled flights. It has a staggered system where customers delayed for three hours gain access to an airport lounge, then a hotel room if it’s over six hours and a new flight if it is cancelled or a flight connection is missed.

This is an emerging trend within the travel insurance sector, with competitor Fizzy offering a similar product to customers flying to the USA, though that only covers rebooking flights for severe delays or cancellations.

The Canada market represents a good opportunity for Blink, as only 28% of the population currently holds an annual travel insurance policy, according to GlobalData statistics. This compares to 35% in the UK and 38% in Ireland, where Blink originates, which suggests that there is room for growth within the Canadian market.

Manulife turning to Blink shows the interest from top insurers in real-time flight insurance continues to be strong, following Axa’s launching a partnership with Fizzy in 2017. With travel insurance penetration rates low around the world (an average of 27% of consumers globally hold an annual travel insurance policy) – especially among younger customers – convenient and digital policies like these should help to engage customers. It is also a continuation on the trend of leading insurers turning to start-ups to help them with innovation, and specifically in connecting to younger customers.

Our survey data showing that 72% of Canadians travel without an annual insurance policy suggests that this is a real opportunity for Blink to expand its global reach. The start-up has already been backed by European Insurance giant, Zurich, and it looks well set to continue disrupting the travel market.

Source: Verdict

A cancelled flight doesn’t have to spell doom for your trip

A cancelled flight doesn’t have to spell doom for your trip

How to Handle Flight Cancellations Like a Pro

Source: Joe Sills | Travel Chanel 

Anger, desperation, panic—they’re the range of emotions rippling through your body when you hear the most dreaded news in travel, “Your flight has been cancelled.”

At first, the sentence seems like an impossibility. Airlines have hundreds of aircraft, right? Even if yours goes down for the count, they could just send another one, right? Sadly, the airline industry doesn’t always work that way. For major airlines, substituting malfunctioning aircraft for another plane already at a major hub is standard procedure; but often, travellers on budget airlines or those flying out of smaller airports find themselves facing a cold reality. Bags packed and beds booked, a flight cancellation can leave you stranded at the terminal, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Still, all is not lost if you find yourself stood up at the gate. There are a few ways to salvage your vacation or business trip by handling flight cancellations like a pro.

1. Rebook on the Next Flight

This is the most common option available to stranded flyers. When a flight is cancelled, airlines use this go-to move to placate as many passengers as possible, though it often means waiting in long customer service lines or finding yourself listening to hold music for hours. You can try to circumvent those lines by accessing customer service via Twitter or email, though those services will occasionally boot you back to the line. Still, if you’re going to be stuck in a line, you might as well @ that airline to save some time.

2. Ditch the Flight for Another Airline

I once found myself stranded at MIA one evening with a desperate need to be in London the very next day. Options were limited: The budget airline that cancelled on me wouldn’t have another flight out of South Florida for days, while major airlines were charging incredible rates to hop across the pond on less than two hours’ notice. After scouring the desks of seemingly every Europe-based airline for an hour, I finally settled on a compromise by grabbing a full refund from the budget flight and applying it to the difference on a last-minute Air France ticket.
The compromise got me to London on time. I was late by just one hour, but it came at a cost. (WOW Air and Air France have totally different pricing structures.)
If you’re short on time and your budget allows, play the field by booking a last-minute flight online. By booking on my smartphone, I skipped a line full of similarly stranded passengers at the service counter. (Google Flights is a lifesaver.) Just be sure to book directly through the airline’s website if you’re cutting it extremely close on time, as budget booking sites can save you money, but sometimes take a few critical minutes to process reservations.
Polite passengers with status on major airlines have had luck being rebooked on another airline. Though you’ll need to be a wizard with words and have some pull to get it done, this bonus route is worth a try for the qualified.

3. Wait It Out, and Get Compensated for Your Time

Airlines know the worst possible thing they can do to a passenger on the ground is to cancel a flight. As such, they typically avoid the process at all costs—and there’s a reason for that. If your flight is cancelled, airlines receive tremendous pressure to compensate you for the inconvenience.
Legally, U.S. travel laws only require airlines to reimburse you monetarily if you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, but that doesn’t mean your inconvenience is worthless.
Sometimes, whether for financial reasons or because your schedule is flexible, the best way to conquer a flight cancellation is to wait it out. If you find yourself in this unenviable position, make a phone call to your airline immediately and attempt to arrange for compensation via frequent flyer miles and hotel reimbursement. (A travel companion of mine once received a 48-hour vacation in Hong Kong courtesy of American Airlines.)
Remember the golden rule of customer service: Thou shalt be polite. Airlines are most likely to pay for your accommodations if the cancellation is due to a mechanical fault with the aircraft, but politeness goes a long way in any flight cancellation scenario, especially if you kindly remind them that you are now in a real pinch.
If you’ve booked your flight with a credit card, you may also be eligible for travel delay reimbursement. The Points Guy has a thrifty list of cards that offer this protection—usually $500 per ticket if you’ve booked the flight with that card. Notable entries include the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve Card, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Citi Prestige Card. Downer alert: Claiming your cash will involve a phone call to your credit card company.
That $500 can go a long way towards making the best of a long delay between flights by covering the cost of a luxurious Airbnb or a night or two out on the town.

The Cold, Hard Truth

Flight cancellations are one of travel’s most unexpected and disappointing disasters. However, if you’re quick on your feet and clever with your calendar, you can turn a frustrating experience into a favourable situation.
Edited for ILSTV

Sudbury woman says she faces bankruptcy over U.S. medical bills after Las Vegas mugging

Dana Roberts, CTV News Northern Ontario

A 65-year-old Sudbury, Ont., woman has spent much of this year dealing with paperwork after being beaten and robbed during a trip to Las Vegas, leaving her with nearly $100,000 in U.S. medical bills.

Sandra Cartledge was all set to have a great trip in Las Vegas starting on Halloween 2018. However, the vacation went horribly wrong on the day she was set to return home.

“Through a series of unfortunate events, I was mugged, robbed of everything, all identity, all money, everything in Vegas, the day I was to leave,” said Cartledge.

Sandra Cartledge’s travel insurance is not covering all her medical bills leaving her owing approximately $100,000. (Supplied)

That incident not only left her without any money or her passport, it put her in the hospital.

Once she was released, she went to the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles, to get a temporary passport, so she could travel home. However, she was told she had to wait upwards of five days until it was ready.

Stressing for lodging, she decided to head to San Francisco for cheaper hotel prices.

Cartledge had another two visits to the hospital after more falls; one which she says left her in a coma for a few days.

“So, at the end of the week, I’m thinking ‘I don’t know at what point my insurance, which I’ll have to figure out when I get home, tops out at.’ All insurance tops at something,” said Cartledge.

She says her first hospital visit is being covered, but she’s on the hook for the following two. She says her insurance company told because the other visits fell outside of her original travel window, they will not be covered, leaving her portion at about CDN $100,000.

“The problem I’m facing today is looking at declaring bankruptcy or losing whatever equity I can get on a quick sale out of my home,” Carledge said.

After reaching out to the local MP and MPP’s offices, she was directed to local insolvency firms, which provided her with a few options. Cartledge says she’s been told she could outwait the collection agencies, in the hope that they go away, but as someone who says she pays her credit card on a daily basis, that stress is too much for her.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), the specifics of Cartledge’s case are rare, but negative experiences to the United States for travellers do happen.

“Travel insurance can save you from bankruptcy,” says Jayme Schuler, manager of Travel Services Call Centre for CAA North and East Ontario. “That would be an extreme case, but yes, especially when you are travelling down to the states because the medical bills that you can rack up very quickly to the cost of what an insurance policy would be.”

Allianz Global Assistance Canada, Cartledge’s travel insurance provider, gave this statement to CTV News:

“We continue to review this file with our customer to identify the expenses that can be covered within the period for which the travel coverage was purchased. We advise all travellers to review the terms and conditions of their policy and, in the event they require medical treatment, travellers should contact their insurance provider as soon as possible.”

While some may overlook the details of their specific policy, Schuler stresses it is important to know what you are covered for.

Ottawa criticizes Ontario for eliminating out-of-country health insurance

TORONTO — Eliminating out-of-country health insurance could jeopardize access to necessary medical care and become a hardship for some travellers, the federal health minister warned Wednesday in a letter to her Ontario counterpart.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the move announced by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government will hurt people who travel regularly to the United States.

“If all publicly financed reimbursement of out-of-country physician and hospital services is eliminated, private health insurance premiums for travellers will inevitably rise for all Ontario residents,” Petitpas Taylor said in her letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Even modest increases could pose a hardship for some individuals.”

The program currently covers out-of-country in-patient services up to $400 per day for a higher level of care, such as intensive care, as well as up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

In May, Elliott announced the decision to scrap the program following a six-day public consultation, saying it is very costly and does not provide value to taxpayers.

The change is expected to come into effect Oct. 1.

A spokesperson for Elliott confirmed Wednesday that the government intends to wind down the program and strongly encourages people to purchase travel health insurance.

“The program’s coverage is very limited with only five cents of every dollar claimed,” Travis Kann said in a statement. “With this limited coverage and low reimbursement rate, OHIP-eligible Ontarians who do not purchase private travel health insurance can be left with catastrophically large bills to pay.”

Elliott has said the province spends $2.8 million to administer approximately $9 million in claim payments through the program every year.

On Wednesday, Petitpas Taylor stressed that if Ontario moves ahead with its plan, it will be the first jurisdiction in the country to provide no coverage for emergency hospital and physician services received out of country.

The minister said this would be “inconsistent” with the Canada Health Act, which stipulates that all Canadians are entitled to continuing coverage of their provincial health plans when they are temporarily absent from home.

“Ontario’s approach will mean that Ontario residents will have to cover the costs of care out of pocket, should they require medical attention while travelling,” she said.

Opposition politicians have said ending the program will hurt frequent travellers. In April, NDP health critic France Gelinas wrote Petitpas Taylor and asked her to intervene and stop Ontario from eliminating the coverage.

“I am urging you to follow through on the prime minister’s commitment … where he affirmed the federal government’s responsibility to ensure provinces follow the requirements of the Canada Health Act,” she said.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has urged the government not to make the move and said it would not only impact seniors who travel south during the winter months, but also cross-border shoppers and anyone planning a family vacation.

In her 2018 report, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said the Ministry of Health processed an average of 88,000 out-of-country claims per year over a five-year period and paid an average of $127 per claim.

Lysyk also noted the high administrative costs of the program, but said they arise because staff must check varying physician services fee rates and process claims manually. She recommended that the government seek ways to reduce administrative costs by adopting a single reimbursement rate for all health services obtained out-of-country.

She also recommended the government bolster efforts to inform Ontarians of the limit on reimbursement rates under the program and on the need to purchase private health insurance before travelling.


Most Canadians leave their families exposed when it comes to travel insurance

TORONTO, June 25, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — While 72 per cent of Canadians had some form of travel or medical insurance for recent travels, most leave their family under-insured, according to a survey released today by InsuranceHotline.com. The study showed over one half of Canadians (52 per cent) would not think to purchase insurance for their university or high school-aged children travelling abroad this summer.

“This oversight is not surprising and brings attention to assumptions around coverage Canadians often make regarding purchasing travel insurance for themselves and family members,” said Anne Marie Thomas from InsuranceHotline.com.

Coverage misconceptions

Of the respondents who were not likely to purchase travel insurance for their next trip, 36 per cent believe they are covered by their employee benefits and one in five believe they have insurance through their credit card. Additionally, over 37 per cent think they have provincial coverage for health insurance when travelling outside of Canada.

“The general assumptions being made by many Canadians on what coverages they believe are in place or that are available to them illustrate an overall lack of awareness that could prove to be quite costly,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “Check with your credit cards, employee benefits and provincial insurance to see what coverage you actually have before you or a family member takes their next trip.”

Additional misconceptions of available insurance coverage

  • One in five Canadians are unaware of lost luggage insurance
  • 24 per cent of Canadians are unaware of illness insurance
  • 43 per cent are unaware of insurance for missing connecting flights
  • 55 per cent are unaware of severe weather insurance
  • 39 per cent are unaware of theft of goods or money insurance

The fact is Canadians are either unaware these insurance exist or typically do not think to ask for them, or generally assume that no harm will come to them while travelling.

While over one quarter of Canadians travelling do not get any form of insurance for themselves, when it comes to family members visiting Canada, a full 82 per cent would not consider purchasing medical insurance for relatives from abroad. This could be problematic if a family member from abroad is involved in a medical emergency and requires a hospital bed. Typically, accommodations range between $3,000-$5,000 per day depending on the hospital and choice of room.

“The reality is that Canadians are not alone in their passive approach to travel medical insurance,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “You should be equally diligent in making sure your family members visiting from abroad are covered, especially those who are elderly or considered higher risk.”

Travel insurance is recommended by the Government of Canada and helps safeguard your health, travel plans and finances while you’re away or while family is visiting. Without coverage, you will be solely responsible for what can easily become exorbitant medical bills or unexpected trip-related expenses. Comparing travel insurance quotes will help you to get the best rate and the best coverage for your needs.

Furthermore, Ontario residents should be aware of upcoming changes to travel coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). The Ontario provincial government is scrapping coverage for Ontario residents who require emergency medical services while travelling outside of Canada. The changes are expected to come into effect on October 1, 2019.

Policy coverage & cost examples*

  • 60-day coverage for student under the age of 30 travelling in Europe – $89/$1.50 day
  • 30-day medical coverage for student under the age of 30 travelling to Brazil – $51.60/$1.72 day
  • Three-week visit from parents both aged 65 in good health who live in Calcutta – $123.64/$5.89 day
  • Cousin aged 42 in good health visiting from Germany for four weeks – $50.85/$1.82 day

*all examples above are to illustrate relative costs and involve certain assumptions that may not be reflective of other considerations in finalizing available coverages

Emergency medical evacuation

The survey also revealed that 41 per cent of Canadians believe the cost of a four-hour emergency medical evacuation is under $2,000. Furthermore, 39 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 believes the cost to be under $500.

“The reality of any emergency evacuation for medical reasons is that your costs are going to be in the tens of thousands of dollars,” said Anne Marie Thomas. “Furthermore, there is a good chance this cost will be compounded by the hospital visit they are being sent home from.”

About the survey
The InsuranceHotline.com Travel Insurance survey was conducted by Forum Research between June 4th – 7th, 2019 and polled 1005 respondents across Canada. The sample’s age ranged from 18 to 65+ years old. To participate in the survey, respondents were required to have travelled outside of Canada in the past twelve months. Survey questions were presented via telephone and respondents provided answers through the touchpad of their mobile device or home phone.

About InsuranceHotline.com
InsuranceHotline.com publishes rates from 30+ insurance providers so that Canadians can find the best insurance rates for themselves. Use the site to find the best rates on Auto, Home, Travel, Life and Commercial Insurance.

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