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Las Vegas attack leaves costly wake for uninsured Canadian victims

Sheldon Mack, right, poses for a photo with the off-duty paramedic Jimmy Grovom from his hospital bed in Las Vegas on Wednesday Oct.5, 2017. Mack was shot in the forearm and abdomen Sunday when a lone gunman opened fire killing nearly 60 people and injuring about 500.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Hudson Mack
October 06, 2017 - 6:00 AM

CALGARY - Hudson Mack says he doesn't know the cost of his Victoria-based son's intensive medical care after being shot Sunday at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, only that he's sure it's already "catastrophic."

Like many who make a short trip to the United States, his 21-year-old son Sheldon didn't buy travel health insurance before crossing the border, and is now facing the potential of a staggering medical bill after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history left him with gunshot wounds that required major surgery.

"It's a lesson to Canadians to not cross the border without coverage," said Mack.

Thanks to a patchwork of funds for victims of violent crime, however, Mack says at least they might not have to worry about the hospital bills, on top of the emotional toll the family is facing.

"Emotionally, it's been hellish," Mack said. "We didn't know what we were going to find when we got down here. So this has been terrible for Sheldon, a horrible thing for him, and a very difficult thing for us."

He said he's been told Nevada has a fund for victims of violent crime who don't have insurance, while the FBI's mass casualty unit may help him get Sheldon home, which he's hoping will happen as soon as this weekend.

The Canadian consulate is also helping, with the potential to tap into a government program that provides financial assistance for Canadians victimized abroad, though the program is capped at $10,000 and doesn't cover lost wages.

Friends have also set up an online crowdfunding page at GoFundMe to help with Sheldon's recovery, as have friends of several other Canadians injured in the attack.

Mack said he's not sure he would have set up the account on his own, but that it's good to see people want to help.

"There'll be a need for that money down the road because there's going to be counselling and ongoing emotional support that Sheldon and the others are going to need after this."

Money is also being raised online for Ryan Sarrazin of Camrose, Alta., who, according to a GoFundMe page started by Tamara Johnson, was "seriously injured" after being shot at the concert.

"This fund is to assist medical and travel expenses for Ryan and his family," she said on the funding page, which has already surpassed the original goal of $50,000 and is nearing the $75,000 mark.

In a statement posted on the page, Sarrazin's family thanked those who have supported them, while asking for privacy going forward.

"The Sarrazin and Moore families would like to extend our sincere gratitude and deep appreciation for all the contributions to the GoFundMe page as well as all the prayers and well wishes we have received."

Braden Matejka from Lake Country, B.C., has also started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $25,000, saying on the page that the money will help cover his required time off work and other recovery costs after being shot in the back of the head.

Victims may also find help from a general GoFundMe campaign started by Las Vegas's county, which has already raised more than US$9 million, though it does not specify how much, if any, will go to Canadians.

Canadian travel health insurance policies generally have at least a million dollars of coverage, said Will McAleer, president of Canada's Travel Health Insurance Association.

Once contacted, insurance companies will contact next of kin, co-ordinate with doctors and hospitals and manage care and flights home, so it's important to have insurance, and your insurance card ready.

However, Canadians shouldn't expect much support from their provincial coverage, where the daily coverage ranges from between $50 and $400 depending on the province, McAleer added.

"The amounts that you'd be paid for under a provincial medical plan are certainly insignificant, they're almost non-existent."

He said intensive medical care for an emergency such as a critical gunshot wound can cost upwards of $10,000 a hour as teams of specialists go into action.

"For significant emergencies, it's not even a fraction of the coverage."

Note to readers: FIXES typo in second last graf

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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