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Accident in the U.S. leaves Manitoba snowbirds with $12K bill


What started as a simple accident has ended up costing a pair of Manitoba snowbirds thousands of dollars.

Aage Schleikjar and Yvonne Fostey spend their winters at their vacation home in Arizona – but this past December while doing some landscaping, the vacation took a turn for the worse.

"I climbed that ladder and I started pruning and the ladder gave out on me," Schleikjar said. "I managed to grab a branch from the tree, and I was hanging there and then I felt something tearing in my shoulder."

The muscle in Schleikjar's arm collapsed, leaving the 75-year-old man in excruciating pain. The injury required surgery, but when they contacted CAA they were told coverage for a surgery in the U.S. was being denied.

"I was livid. I couldn't believe it," Schleikjar told CTV News.

The couple was told they could travel back to Canada to have the surgery, but if they had it done in the U.S., they would have to foot the bill – more than $12,000 American.

As the surgery was time-sensitive and fearing surgical delays back home, Schleikjar said they booked the surgery in Arizona.

In a statement to CTV News, CAA said it can't provide specific details on Schleikjar's situation, but added claims are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

"By its nature, emergency medical insurance is intended to cover unforeseen emergency medical expenses and does not cover continued investigations or treatment after a condition is stabilized and a safe return home is advised by the treating physician," the statement reads.

"Once a condition is no longer an emergency and the traveller is considered medically stable, the focus shifts to assisting with medical repatriation back to Canada for ongoing treatment.

"If the traveller chooses to continue care at destination, then those expenses may not be covered under the policy."

Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, said it is important travellers know what is and isn't covered in their insurance policies.

"Whether you're 75 or 25, it's incredibly important to make sure that you get proper travel health insurance," he said.

"That's because provincial medical plans simply don't cover anywhere near what you would need if you have a medical emergency, let alone if you have a medical emergency down in the United States, where it's perhaps the most expensive place on the earth to get medical treatment."

After paying the bill, the couple did reach out to Manitoba Health for a reimbursement on the surgery – but only got about $700 back.

Manitoba Health tells CTV News it contributes the equivalent of what medical costs would be in the province, and recommends third-party insurance to cover the remaining amount.

The province does say on its website that emergency hospital care outside of Canada is paid on an average daily rate established by Manitoba Health, but the remaining cost may be substantial and is your responsibility.

Now Schleikjar and Fostey want other travellers to be aware.

"We did our due diligence, we did what we felt we had to do, and then for an event like this to happen, and they're not going to cover you – we just want people to be aware," Fostey said. Top Stories

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