By Bruce Frisko | CTV Atlantic
A Nova Scotia retiree who needed medical attention during a trip to Alberta is upset after receiving a $25,000 air ambulance bill, which has since been lowered to $14,000.
Robert Carroll was visiting family last year when he became short of breath. He was flown from Grande Prairie to Edmonton, but his surgery was cancelled. He made a second trip later that week.
Carroll says he expressed concerns to a doctor about the possible air ambulance costs, but was assured the service was covered.
“The government pays for it, don’t worry about the cost,” Carroll says he was told. “That made me feel better.”
Four months later, the $25,000 bill from Alberta Health Services arrived. After family intervened, the provincial agency knocked about $9,000 off the total owing. But that’s still a lot to Carroll, who says it has caused him “terrible worry.”
“I thought it was all covered,” his wife, Pat Carroll, said. “And you know, something like that could affect your (credit) rating.”
A Nova Scotia government spokesperson said that ambulance services are not covered or subsidized when travelling out of province. “Residents who travel outside of Nova Scotia or outside Canada are encouraged to purchase travel health insurance,” Nova Scotia warns.
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says that coverage differs from province to province, so people who travel outside their home provinces should make sure they have extended coverage through their employers or by purchasing it.
Carroll isn’t the first person to be surprised by a large ambulance bill while travelling. Last year, an Ontario woman received a $12,000 air ambulance bill after having a heart attack in Nova Scotia.
In 2015, an Alberta woman received a $30,000 bill after going into labour in northern Ontario. The case caused outrage and the two provinces eventually agreed to split the cost, but both continue to bill non-residents for air ambulance services.