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Ontario widower stuck with US$100K+ medical bill after late wife hospitalized on vacation

An Ontario widower, still grieving his wife's death, is unsure how to pay for a medical bill from their last vacation to Florida, which costs more than US$124,000.

"It's quite a bit of money, and I don't know what to do," Muskoka resident Steve McMillian told CTV News Toronto.

McMillian said his wife, Cynthia Tyrrell, was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and underwent various treatments over the following three years.

In March 2022, she felt well enough to go to Florida for a sunny vacation.

"The doctor said after this radiation treatment, 'If you're feeling ok, away you go.' She wanted to get into the sun and enjoy herself, so away we went," McMillian said.

But when Tyrrell got to Florida, her condition grew worse. She was hospitalized there and eventually needed a medical flight back to Canada.

"She spent 10 days in the hospital, and they airlifted her back to Simcoe," McMillian said.

Tyrrell died shortly after returning home. Even though the couple had travel insurance with GreenShield, her claim was denied because Tyrrell was being treated for cancer before her trip.

According to McMillian, the bill from her hospital visit in Florida and the medical flight back home amounts to US$124,816 (approximately C$168,714).

A spokesperson for GreenShield told CTV News Toronto that it could not provide specific details on Tyrrell's claim as it contains private personal health information.

"We can confirm all claim decisions involve multiple levels of review with both internal claim examiners and external medical experts," the statement reads.

President of Travel Secure and travel insurance expert Martin Firestone told CTV News Toronto that most travel insurance policies have a stability clause stating a traveller's health must be completely stable for 90 days before the trip.

"You have to know what the stability clause is in your contract," said Firestone. "Even a change in medication can be enough to void your claim."

In the event of a claim, Firestone said most insurance companies will request doctor and medical records to see the state of your health before the travel date.

"If you have any of these things, a change in your prescriptions, doctor visits, complaints of any sort, they basically rule out of any chance of a claim being paid," Firestone said.

McMillian said he doesn't know how to pay the enormous medical bill.

"They are not aggressively chasing me yet, but I'm sure it's going to ramp up," said McMillian.

Firestone said anyone with a huge out-of-country medical bill can try to negotiate a lower amount.

"If you say, 'I have no money, I didn't get the insurance company to pay for this,' you can tell them what can we settle on, and many U.S. hospitals will settle for a significant reduction," said Firestone.

Firestone added doing nothing could prompt hospitals in the U.S. to come after you for the total amount and seize property if you have it in the U.S.

Firestone advises anyone planning to travel who feels unwell or has existing health problems may want to reconsider and stay home. Top Stories

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