The province has agreed to pay a $64,000 medical bill of a Manitoba man who was treated in a U.S. hospital last year and will continue to work on getting a $48,000 medi-vac flight covered.
In October, Robin Milne had a heart attack at his Manitoba home and was rushed to the nearest hospital in Roseau, Minn., part of a long standing, but little known agreement with the province called the Altru Agreement. He ended up stuck with a hospital bill of more than more than $118,000.
At the time the Manitoba government refused to pay for the bill. Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province did not have the authority to make these type of payments.
However, on Thursday Goertzen said the province will now cover Milne’s medical costs.
“I can advise… there are no outstanding hospital and medical bills for Mr. Milne,”Goertzen said at the Manitoba Legislature Thursday.
When Milne was in the hospital in Roseau, he was supposed head to Winnipeg for heart surgery. Minnesota doctors put a call in to the St. Boniface Hospital, but after more than an hour, nothing was being done.
With his life on the line, the Minnesota 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, for life-saving surgery.
The flight there ended up costing Milne more than $35,000 (U.S.). This will not be covered by the province as of right now, Goetzen said. He also said he is working to find a way to pay for the flight. The medical bills in Grand Forks, which cost Milne around $47,000 (U.S.), have been covered.
Statement from Goertzen issued Thursday afternoon
Earlier this year, I was made aware of several unfortunate and unique situations where Manitobans were left with significant medical bills not covered by the working agreement between the Province of Manitoba and service providers in Minnesota (Altru). I was also advised that under the Health Services Insurance Act, the Minister of Health is unable to direct payment in order to resolve these medical bills.
I recently travelled to Roseau to meet with officials of Altru and LifeCare. As a result of those discussions around the operation of the Altru contract, and given the specific and exceptional circumstances of Mr. Milne’s case, there are no hospital and medical bills outstanding for Mr. Milne. Further discussions are ongoing with the medical transport company regarding their invoice.
As well, there are continuing discussions with Altru on the application on the agreement and there will be further information and consultations to the residents of the Rural Municipality of Piney. Additional clarity about eligibility for coverage and services is needed for both residents of Manitoba and the service providers in the United States to ensure similar unfortunate incidents do not occur.
Province reviewing Altru Agreement
Goertzen said he met with representatives from Altru Agreement and Life Care in Rouseau to discuss the agreement and “whether it’s being applied for what it’s been intended to do.”
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.
Goertzen said the agreement is just three pages long and needs to be overhauled. However, that will take time. He is also seeking input from residents who are affected by it.