Manitoba man’s US medical expenses reduced after minister’s involvement

Provincial health minister reports ‘continuing discussions’ to clarify Manitoba-US medical agreement

Manitoba man’s US medical expenses reduced after minister’s involvement
A Manitoba man’s $118,000 US medical bill has been slashed significantly after provincial Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen met with the healthcare provider and the emergency transport company that facilitated the man’s potentially life-saving operation.

Last fall, Robin Milne was transported to a US hospital to undergo a potentially life-saving heart operation. He expected to be covered under the Altru Agreement, a special healthcare arrangement between Manitoba and two Minnesota localities. After specialists said they could not perform the potentially life-saving procedure he needed, he was flown to a second hospital in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which isn’t included in the agreement.

A few weeks after his operation, he received a medical bill from the US amounting to roughly $118,000. At that point, Milne sought assistance from Manitoba Health and Goertzen, who said that his hands were tied and he could not order the use of provincial funds to cover the bill, but he would meet with US medical officials and Altru staff to see about renegotiating the sum. He also said he wanted a review of the Altru Agreement, which was signed in the late 1990s.

On Thursday, Milne went to the Manitoba Legislature with his son Kevin in hopes of meeting with Goertzen. It turned out that the minister had met with officials at US healthcare provider Altru and US emergency transport service LifeCare, the companies that facilitated Milne’s urgent operation. He told the family not to worry about the medical expenses, which comprised the bulk of the bill, though they may still have to pay $48,000 in transportation costs.

“When [my father] realized it was actually true, he was very emotional,” said Kevin. “He just obviously felt like finally something has come good out of this for him.”

It is unclear whether the bill was covered or if the province negotiated for it to be written off.

Goertzen said there are “continuing discussions” with Altru on how the agreement is to be applied. He also promised more information and consultations with residents of Piney, which includes Sprague and other border communities in Manitoba covered in the arrangement.

“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,” Goertzen said.

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