WINNIPEG – A Manitoba man is sitting with a $118,000 medical bill after receiving emergency medical care in the United States. On Thursday the province called for a complete review of the agreement that led to the man getting treatment in Roseau, Minn.
The Altru Agreement, between the U.S. and the province, allows some Manitobans to receive medical attention south of the border. Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the agreement is now out of date.
“The review should have been done a long time ago,” Goertzen said.
This comes a day after Global News broke the story of Robin Milne who had a heart attack in his home in Sprague, Man., in October. He was rushed to the nearest hospital in the U.S for care.
He received the medical attention he needed to save his life, but also ended up with a medical bill of $118,000.
On Thursday, Goertzen told Global News he hopes a review of the 20-year-old agreement means situations like Milne’s will not happen again.
“The Altru Agreement was supposed to allow residents to go into U.S. and have services done nearby,” Goertzen said. “It was brought in for good reasons… but lots has changed in 20 years, like medical service and the ability to use STARS Air Ambulance.”
Since the agreement was enacted, there have been eight or nine cases of individuals who have been left with massive hospital bills, Goertzen said.
“This can’t happen again,” he said.
Goertzen said the province will review Milne’s case to see if there are any commonalities with the others.
The review means Manitobans will have a clear understanding of what and who is covered under the agreement, Goertzen added. He said he does not have an timeline of when it will begin.
The Altru Agreement means residents like Milne can receive treatment in U.S. hospitals near the Canadian border. However, they will be stuck with the bill.
The agreement has existed for many years and was most recently signed in 1998.
“The agreement covers payments for hospital and medical services for Manitoba residents, but does not address costs associated with transportation or other sites in the United States,” a provincial spokesperson said in an email. No similar agreements exist with other facilities in the U.S.
According to notes written by Milne’s doctor in the medical records:
“(They were) experiencing significant delays in transfer to St. Boniface. Ninety minutes after (the) accepting physician (was) obtained, still no ETA for transfer to Winnipeg.”
With his life on the line, the doctor made the decision they could no longer wait for an air ambulance back to Manitoba and he needed to be flown immediately to Grand Forks, N.D.., for the surgery.
Bills for his care and treatment in the U.S. started coming through.
Including, but not limited to:
- US$35,936.70 for the medical flight from Roseau to Grand Forks
- US$47,411.75 for his hospital bill in Grand Forks
That is a grand total of US$89,921.46 or more than $118,000 when converted to Canadian funds.
Now Milne and his family are left trying to figure out how to cover the massive bill they don’t feel they should be on the hook for.
“Ultimately, if push comes to shove I will have to pull a second mortgage on our home,” he said.
“My wife’s taken a second job and then we’re doing all we can to prepare for this. It’s not going to be easy.”
When asked if the province could cover Milne’s medical bill, Goertzen said he does not have the legal authority to do so.
“I cannot order the payment of a health insurance…that is done by regulation,” he said.
With files from Brittany Greenslade