Canadian couple hit with $950K bill after premature birth in US face bankruptcy

Canadian couple hit with $950K bill after premature birth in US face bankruptcy
Canadian parents hit with a bill of almost $1 million from a US hospital after their baby was born prematurely on vacation in Hawaii are now facing possible bankruptcy. Their story provoked a social media storm with many people offering to help.

Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel was six months pregnant when she travelled to Hawaii with her husband. She had consulted before the trip with her doctor, who gave her the go-ahead to travel. Things went wrong when her water broke two days into the trip. Jennifer was taken to the hospital by air ambulance and spent six weeks on bed rest before her baby girl was born by emergency caesarean section last December. Her daughter Reece, born nine weeks prematurely, spent two months in intensive care. Huculak-Kimmel was hit with a $950,000 bill, which the insurer refused to cover, citing a "pre-existing condition" allegedly not declared by the mother-to-be before the trip.

"Blue Cross said that because I had a bladder infection at four months and hemorrhaged because of that, that they would not cover the pregnancy,
" Huculak-Kimmel told CBC.

She said her doctor was aware of the condition when he cleared her to travel. On top of that, doctors in Hawaii allegedly told her it had nothing to do with the premature water break. Some suggested that the long flight could have possibly played a role.

"We thought we had done everything right. We thought we had covered all avenues and we thought we were covered. We thought we were safe to go," she added.

The family decided to go public to warn others know to be careful when purchasing insurance.


"When a Blue Cross representative sits across a table from you and says, 'Yes, you are covered,' maybe their representatives should be more well-educated on what they're selling,"
Huculak-Kimmel told the National Post.

According to the newspaper, the family were recently also celebrating the purchase of a new house. Now that they're on the verge of bankruptcy, the house is for sale.

Vancouver-based lawyer Scott Stanley, who works on similar cases, said the family should not pay the bill.

"I see cases like this all the time — not necessarily involving pregnancies — where people have gone to the United States ... and they've had a minor medical condition, but that's enough to disqualify them," he told CBC.

Huculak-Kimmel and her husband are at a loss, "weighing their options", but at the same time "in high spirits" - thanks to support they received after sharing their story with ordinary people.

"The last 24 hours have been very overwhelming for our family. The support, response, and reaction to our story is unbelievable,"
Huculak-Kimmel told Vancuver Sun in an emailed statement. Some people offered help, while others made "mean comments about traveling while pregnant," she said.