A Sydney mother has revealed her horror after she was bombarded with a series of expensive medical bills following an innocuous injury suffered on holiday.
Rachael Minaway, 32, was heading on a dream vacation to Hawaii with a friend when their holiday took an unfortunate turn just hours into their trip.
“We were really excited to get our car from the airport and then go straight to the beach,” she explained to Yahoo News Australia.
“I went to put our valuables into the glove box and I smashed my finger into it.”
Ms Minaway cracked her acrylic fingernail with the blow but didn’t think anything of it until it began to swell and bleed and her hand started to tremble.
Her friend urged her to seek medical treatment so the pair searched for the nearest medical centre.
Yet instead of arriving at a walk-in doctor, they found themselves entering a hospital’s emergency room – a move she said proved costly.
“In Hawaii they must call hospitals medical centres,” she pointed out.
While she admitted she “thought it was funny” they were waiting in emergency for a broken nail during their 2017 trip, they stuck it out to see a doctor.
When eventually seen to by a doctor, he advised she had the nail fully removed.
Ms Minaway said considering there was a sharp pain every time the nail was touched, she would need a local anaesthetic for the procedure.
With the simple removal completed in about half an hour, and the friends ready to get back to their adventure-packed trip, she was informed she would need to pay about $800 (A$1,150) on the spot.
A shocked Ms Minaway couldn’t believe her ears, informing the hospital staff they’d just got off a flight from Australia and hadn’t even been to their hotel yet.
“I had the money but I didn’t want to spend it on a broken finger nail,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
But the hospital wouldn’t let her leave and she eventually forked out the money before heading back to her hotel to contact her travel insurance company, 1Cover.
Thankfully for Ms Minaway, the insurance company swiftly covered the bill.
While she was upset she had to cancel a scheduled shark dive due to her injury, her ordeal was over – for now.
Hospital costs saga continues after arriving home
Several months down the line and now pregnant with her first child, Aurora, she was on the receiving end of a series of bills addressed to her, claiming further funds for her hospital visit in Hawaii.
“I just started getting all these random bills again. I thought ‘oh no this is some sort of confusion’ so I forwarded it back to them and showed the receipt for my visit,” she explained.
But to her horror, they just kept on coming.
She once again forwarded the bills to 1Cover, who took control of the situation for her.
Ms Minaway said the stress of the situation was the last thing she needed at six months pregnant as a single parent.
“I just couldn’t understand, it was all different amounts – it totalled about $3,000,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
The then-expecting mother said she began to doubt herself, questioning whether she should have avoided the procedure to save herself from the whole saga.
She said her reliance on Medicare had left her brutally unprepared for the costs of treatment in the States.
“I never thought America was that expensive when it came to medical health.”
With her daughter now one, Ms Minaway wants to use her ordeal as a reminder to Australians to never head on holiday without travel insurance as even the most minor of injuries could cost you thousands of dollars.
“I’m so adventurous, God only knows if something happened more serious to me it would have cost so much just to get us out of there,” she said.
The mother-of-one, who has transformed her travel Instagram into a joint account with Aurora, is now planning a trip back to Hawaii with her daughter.
“Aurora is so adventurous just like me,” she said.
Ms Minaway said she wanted to inspire other young, single mums to venture out of their comfort zone and travel the world.
“I want to tell mothers: ‘Your lives aren’t over’.”
Exorbitant fees common, expert says
Richard Warburton, Travel Safety Expert at 1Cover Travel Insurance, revealed it was commonplace for travellers to the US to be charged high on-the-spot fees for minor ailments as well as being chased for further payment after they’ve returned home.
“Recently we had another customer who faced costs of $2,600 for a splinter she had removed in the US. She was harassed continuously for this tiny injury once she got back to Australia,” he explained.
The risk of giant medical bills isn’t deterring Australians travelling to the US though, with a 2018 Australian Bureau of Statistics report showing that the United States was the third most popular international destination for Australians.
He said minor claims in the US had increased five-fold in the past three years.
“A recent customer of ours saw the doctor for an uncomplicated case of tonsillitis. She was billed $10,000, and they didn’t even take out the tonsils!” he said.
“Another patient had some nausea and vomiting over 24 hours. She was completely fine but was charged $28,000.”
He advised for travellers to ensure they are covered every time they travel abroad and to pass over their insurers details as soon as they seek medical treatment to avoid any unwanted extra costs down the line.
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