Parents

Million dollar baby: New parents from Canada shocked by huge U.S. hospital bill

A Canadian woman who unexpectedly went into labor while on vacation in the U.S. is protesting an almost $1 million bill for her and her baby’s hospital stay.

Jennifer Huculak and her husband Darren Kimmel, both of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, bought travel health insurance to be safe — but then their claim was denied.

“We were mortified,” Kimmel told TODAY Parents about the moment the couple found out about the huge bill.

Huculak was 24 weeks pregnant when she and Kimmel flew to Hawaii in October 2013. She was cleared to travel by her doctor and the couple bought a travel insurance package for their trip through Saskatchewan Blue Cross, Kimmel said. (In Canada, health-care costs like prenatal care, labor and delivery are all covered through universal health care provided by the federal government.)

“Jennifer looked this lady in the eye and said, ‘So I’m covered?’ And this lady looked at her and said, ‘Yes, you’re covered. Have a good holiday.’ And the holiday turned into a staycation,” Kimmel told TODAY Parents.

Huculak’s water suddenly broke two days into the vacation. She was put on bed rest in a Honolulu hospital for six weeks, and gave birth to her daughter Reece on Dec. 10. The premature baby girl spent two months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The combined bill for Huculak’s and the baby’s care was more than $900,000, Kimmel said. Then, the couple found out their insurance company was denying the claim, citing a pre-existing condition.

The Saskatchewan Blue Cross did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Huculak had a bladder infection a month before the trip to Hawaii, but her doctor in Canada and the doctors who treated Huculak in Honolulu said it wouldn’t have caused her water to break, Kimmel said.

She was also stuck in Hawaii as there was no way to travel back to Canada while she was on bed rest, he added.

“Had we taken the chance to fly out on a commercial flight and something happened over the sea, there was a chance Jennifer could have passed and we’d have lost the baby,” Kimmel said. “I’m positive it’s not a chance anybody would ever be willing to take.”

The Saskatchewan government and the state of Hawaii picked up a portion of the bill, but about $900,000 still remains. Much of it is past due and some of it has been sent to collections, he noted.

“Every day is an adventure here,” Kimmel said. “We don’t know what happens now.”

The couple has gone public hoping their insurance company will reverse course. They’ve been amazed by the public reaction to their story, with some people offering to donate money.

Meanwhile, their baby girl is doing fine almost one year after her traumatic delivery. She’s “very healthy, she’s a little rascal,” Kimmel said.

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