Young Vacationer Stranded: No Insurance

A young girl, on vacation in Jamaica with her father, has had to rely on Canadian government assistance and public donations to get her home after suffering a stroke as she had no travel insurance, says an article in the London Free Press, published November 14.

According to the Free Press story, the girl, 11-year old  Jaylynn Graham, suffered a stroke while in Jamaica and had to undergo surgery at a Montego Bay hospital, running up almost $100,000 in medical bills. In addition, though she was recovering well, family members reported that she was unable to return home on a commercial flight and would have to be returned on an air ambulance.

The father, who is said to be a single dad and unable to pay the bills, is being helped out by family and local organizations who have set up a fund to help defray the costs of getting Jaylynn home.

The tragic part of this story is that the cost of providing travel insurance for an otherwise healthy 11-year old for one week is approximately $16. And that would have provided up to $5 million in medical coverage, depending on the policy, and would have included repatriation to a hospital at home by an air ambulance—if necessary.

How often do we hear stories like these from Canadians who should know that once they leave the country, their provincial health insurance is virtually useless.  In this case, OHIP could be expected to pay something—perhaps about 10 percent because its out-of-country hospital payments run to between $200 and $400 a day at maximum, and payments to doctors are held to provincial payments rates—which are not high by international standards.  Whatever the result, OHIP will likely not pay anything close to what the family will be saddled when they get the final bill.

Medical care is expensive, everywhere in the world just as it is in Canada. Jamaica is no exception, and Jamaica is not a cheap tourist destination.

What this sad story proves is that children are just as vulnerable as adults to accidents and or sudden illnesses when travelling abroad. They need insurance coverage as do adults. If neither of them have it while on a trip abroad the results can be devastating. And yet, so avoidable.

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