Canadian Lies in a Buffalo Hospital—Uninsured

The weekend story carried in the Hamilton Spectator about a young man hospitalized in Buffalo after being hit by a taxi while leaving a Bills’ football game is another illustration of what can happen when Canadians leave home without travel insurance. And it happens often.  Why?

In Mid-November, the London Free Press reported on a young girl, on vacation in Jamaica with her father, who had to rely on Canadian government assistance and public donations to get her home after suffering a stroke as she had no travel insurance.  Again, we ask why?

It’s not as if Canadians don’t often see such stories, or are unaware that once they leave the country their provincial health insurance plans don’t cover them to any extent, and it’s not because federal and provincial government agencies don’t warn Canadians not to leave the country without supplemental health insurance.

Yet According to an Ipsos Reid poll, almost half (44 percent) of young Canadians—18 to 34 years of age report that they have never or rarely taken out travel insurance on any trip they have made to the U.S. in the last two years.

Fortunately, more mature and elderly Canadians know better, and they do buy travel insurance to cover accidents or health emergencies that might arise while out of the country.

What makes the sad situation of Canadians laid up in U.S. hospital beds running up huge medical bills even worse, is that it is often the innocent people back home who will set up charitable accounts and petition governments to bail out those who neglect to buy insurance and fall to the consequences.

The young Hamilton man, Robert Sitter, a long-time Bills’ fan, was hit by a taxi on the way to the stadium and, up until last weekend, had been laid up in a Buffalo hospital in a coma for approximately two weeks.  According to the Spectator report he has subsequently opened his eyes and hopefully is on his way to some recovery.  But as of this writing he still can’t be transported to a hospital in Canada.

Will the hospitals charges for this case be horrendous?  Absolutely.  Because the care he requires is of the highest calibre, and the technology used will be the best available, and that costs.

What will the province of Ontario pay toward a bill that will likely run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Maybe up to $400 a day for each day Mr. Sitter is in hospital.  If he had valid travel insurance, which covers unexpected medical emergencies and accidents, all of his bills and his transportation back to Ontario would likely have been covered.

With Canadians crossing the border in record numbers, to shop with the strong Canadian dollar, or just to attend sports events or visit relatives, travel insurance has never been more critical—and it is more available, through more sources, than ever before.

There is absolutely no excuse, none, for any Canadian leaving the country uninsured.  In Mr. Sitter’s case, the insurance for one overnight stay would likely have cost less than lunch at the Bill’s stadium.

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