Canadian patient faces interprovincial medical costs

A polar bear severely injured a Canadian resident last November.

In the United States, the concept of universal health care is in its infancy, but did you know that even countries that provide health insurance to all residents have their limitations?

Recent reports of such limitations occurred to Quebec, Canada resident Erin Greene. Last October, Greene was in Churchill at the time, which is a community in Manitoba. Greene was walking home from a Halloween party when she was attacked by a polar bear. The injuries were severe: parts of her ear and scalp were torn, as well as three arteries.

It has been three months since the incident occurred, but Greene is still facing the horror of that night with an outstanding $13,000 medical bill for her ambulance services. This came to a shock to Greene because she thought that the transport was covered by her country's health insurance policy.

"I'm a Canadian citizen and in Canada so I didn't think I was going to be paying anything," Greene explained to the Winnipeg Free Press. "Even when people in Churchill were asking me if I'd gotten the bills yet, at first I didn't think there would be."

As the Canadian health care plan is formatted, there are some services that are only covered if the medical emergency occurs within the province — ambulance transportation is one of those. For example, Manitoba residents would be eligible for airlift travel while Quebec does not offer coverage for ambulatory services. Greene has contacted the Churchill Hospital's medical claims management, but she was told that  "there's nothing they can do."

"If they travel to Kenora for the weekend and something happens that they need to be airlifted back to a big facility in Winnipeg, they are going to be responsible for the cost," Manitoba Health's director Gayle Martens told CBC News.

This type of back and forth between medical practice, insurance provider and patient happens all the time. Instead of dealing with a large caseload of these problems, outsource a batch of patients to accounts receivable management.