January 27, 2017 5:23 pm
Updated: January 27, 2017 9:48 pm

Manitoba residents shocked to learn they should buy extra insurance for medical emergency


A Manitoba man is shocked to hear some residents in his town have to take out private health insurance in case of a medical emergency.

Wayne Anderson, the reeve of Sprugue, Man., said the town has a special agreement in place with Manitoba health that allows residents to receive medical attention south of the border, such as Rousea, Minn. This is called the Altru Agreement.

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READ MORE: Province to review Manitoba man’s $118K medical bill, for heart treatment in U.S. hospital

“We use the Rouseau hospital because it is too far to use a Manitoba hospital for an emergency,” Anderson said. “So we’ve always had the agreement with Manitoba health… that residents in this corner use that hospital for emergencies.”

Because of this, some residents may be stuck with massive medical bills after being treated in a U.S. hospital.

On Thursday, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province encourages residents in this area to take out private insurance so they are covered for “unknown circumstances.”

WATCH: Manitoba’s Minister of Health, Kelvin Goertzen, speaks about the need for change and review of the Altru Agreement, last signed in 1998. This comes soon after a Manitoba man was left with a bill of over $110,000

However, the province has never mentioned the need for residents to purchase private insurance for medical emergencies, Anderson said.

“No one ever mentioned anything about insurance to use before,” he said. “We know all about travel insurance, but that has nothing to do with the situation.”

If a resident in the area were to take out private health insurance to cover the costs of a medical emergency in the U.S., they would be out of luck.

According to Great West Life and Manitoba Blue Cross, additional health coverage for this type of incident does not exist. There are only similar ways to receive coverage.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance allows Manitobans to receive assistance for emergency medical situations in the U.S. However, you are only covered if the medical emergency is “sudden, unforeseen and unexpected,” according to Manitoba Blue Cross. A Manitoban heading to south of the border because of the Altru Agreement would not be covered.

Critical illness policy

Critical illness insurance provides financial support for Manitobans anywhere in the world. If you experience a “covered illness” (such as cancer) and meet the “survival period”, you receive a cash payment, according to Great West Life. You can use this money to help pay the medical bills. A Manitoba resident must apply for this, and it depends on age, gender and severity of your illness, according to the insurance company.

LISTEN: Wayne Anderson says the province never told him to take out private insurance 

Province reviews U.S.,Manitoba health agreement

On Thursday, the province called for a formal review of the Altru Agreement and the appeal process available to Manitobans who are refused coverage.

This comes after Global News broke the story of Manitoba man, Robin Milne, who had a massive heart attack in his home and was rushed to the nearest hospital in Roseau, for care in October.

He received the medical attention he needed to save his life, but also ended up with a medical bill of more than $118,000 that the province has refused to pay.

READ MORE: Manitoba man on hook for close to $120K medical bill after having a heart attack at home

Goertzen said the province is reviewing Milne’s case.

Since the Altru Agreement was enacted 20 years ago, 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. “I don’t want anybody to be in a situation where they have to make a life-or-death decision that involves significant amount of money because they didn’t have information on what is covered.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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