Judging from the strong tourism figures, Canadians love Las Vegas—and sin city returns the favour. But if you get sick or have an accident while visiting during this holiday season, be prepared to cough up some of your casino winnings for hospital deposits and out-of-pocket fees.
Las Vegas-area hospitals have a lot of experience dealing with foreign tourists, and some of them take a tough stance when it comes to getting paid for their services. As with all US hospitals, they are required by federal law to treat anyone with a medical emergency regardless of their ability to pay or whether or not they have health insurance. But that does not prohibit them from demanding payment for those services—either cash on the barrelhead, credit card, or some other promissory arrangement.
Also, because Canadians make up the largest group of foreign visitors to Las Vegas, area hospitals are well aware of the shortcomings of provincial government health insurance benefits for out-of-country services. Flashing a government health card is not going to impress a hospital accounting clerk. They will want to see evidence of private health insurance from a company they recognize or can immediately contact for verification of coverage. Short of that, you will likely be required to put down a substantial deposit or credit card commitment.
In fact, when checking into any American hospital you will be required to sign a statement acknowledging that you are responsible for any costs you generate. This is standard procedure, but it doesn’t mean that you will have to dig into your own bank account to pay the charges—if you have acceptable travel insurance.
The service you will get in most American hospitals, including those in the Las Vegas area, will be of very high quality. And high-quality health care is expensive—anywhere in the world. But American hospitals have to be run like businesses: there are no government bailouts if they run into the red, and many do. So they must be careful of their bottom line and they will go after you for unpaid bills if necessary. For that reason alone, it’s essential that you have private travel insurance they can recognize.
Betting that you won’t encounter an unexpected medical emergency while on that short trip to Las Vegas is a fool’s wager. If you want to gamble, do it in the casino—not the emergency room.