Las Vegas shooting victims facing large medical bills

'We don't even know what our bill is ... but I'm sure it's already substantial,' father of wounded victim says

October 05, 2017

Sheldon Mack, 21, of Victoria, met Jimmy Grovom, the paramedic who helped save his life after Sunday's shooting attack in Las Vegas. Mack did not buy travel insurance before his trip. (Hudson Mack)

Many of the shooting victims in Las Vegas will live with the physical and emotional scars — and the hit to their pocketbooks — for a long time.

Canadians will have much better coverage than Americans but are still facing large medical bills.


"We don't even know what our bill is right now but I'm sure it's already substantial and will keep going up," said Hudson Mack of Victoria.

Mack's 21-year-old son, Sheldon, was rushed to hospital after being shot Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 58 people are dead, including four Canadians. Almost 500 people are injured.

No travel insurance

Sheldon Mack didn't buy travel insurance for this trip, a 21st-birthday celebration with two friends.

He has already had his colon removed. Now out of intensive care, doctors have decided to leave bullet fragments in his arm.

Hudson Mack's son, Sheldon, is recovering from shooting injuries in a Las Vegas hospital. Mack says he'll eventually research what financial assistance is available to help cover U.S. medical bills. (Steven D'Souza/CBC News)

"We've been told that we'll probably be here till the end of the week at least. They want to make sure that there is no risk of infection to the abdominal surgery," Hudson Mack said.

Provincial health plans do cover some U.S. treatment. While plans vary, it's generally capped at the cost of providing that care in Canada.

Victims' fund

Some people will have extra coverage through their workplace benefit plans. Some credit cards provide medical coverage.

The Canadian government can help in a medical emergency by providing a list of local doctors and hospitals, but it won't pay for medical expenses. It recommends that people buy travel insurance before leaving the country.

Click to show more
Teulon's Jan Lambourne was shot in the stomach in the mass shooting. She was carried to safety by Las Vegas bartender Justin Uhart who stayed by her side until she went in for surgery and called her family. On Wednesday, they saw each other for the first time since the shooting.  1:37

However, it does have a fund for victims of foreign crime, said Heidi Illingworth, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

"We have one program through the federal government Department of Justice, which is the emergency assistance for victims abroad, which can provide up to $10,000 of financial assistance to victims," she said, adding that provincial programs don't apply because they require that the crime happened in-province.

Looking into help from Nevada

The state of Nevada also has an assistance program for victims of violent crime and their families.

 "My office has been trying to find out what if anything the city of Las Vegas or the state of Nevada is going to offer to this very large group," Illingworth said.

'Canadians need to understand that when that type of tragedy strikes, they're covered.' - Will McAleer, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

Illingworth is pressing the issue amid growing concerns about attacks at large public events, such as recent mass killings at concerts in Paris and Manchester, U.K. 

"How are we going to offer support to [these] folks when they hopefully are returning to Canada and perhaps need some support and medical assistance and psychological assistance long-term," she said.

A recent RBC survey found 75 per cent of Canadians travelling abroad planned to buy additional travel health insurance. 

Most of those people are over the age of 55. Those under 30 are least likely to have extra coverage, said Will McAleer, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.

'Make sure you've got your coverage'

"It's typically great coverage down in the States, but probably the most expensive [medical care] that you can get in the world so as a result, yeah, you want to make sure you've got your coverage down there," he said.

People who have insurance should keep their policy number and emergency response number with them, and they should understand their policy.

A woman lights candles at a vigil on the Las Vegas Strip following the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

"Canadians need to understand that when that type of tragedy strikes, they're covered. And the vast majority of policies are all going to be covering the medical expenses related to the Canadian travellers down in Las Vegas," McAleer said.

Meanwhile, many shooting victims already have individual fundraising campaigns set up for them. 

Online fundraiser

An American businessman and politician has also set up a Las Vegas Victims' Fund online. Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak, who is running for governor as a Democrat, pitched in $10,000 US himself.  That account has already raised more than $9 million of its $15 million goal.

Hudson Mack is grateful for all the help he and his family have already received. Once they're home, he'll do more research on the financial assistance available.

But, he added, his son's recovery is priceless.

Click to show more
Sheldon Mack is among the injured survivors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas this week. The 21 year old is recovering in a Las Vegas hospital. Gregor Craigie spoke to Sheldon's father, former Victoria news anchor Hudson Mack  10:35

"Obviously his time isn't done yet and he has things to do yet. Our faith will help us through this thing," he said.

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Four Canadians were killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting and at least six more were injured  2:08


Karen Pauls
National Reporter

Karen Pauls is an award-winning journalist who has been a national news reporter in Manitoba since 2004. She has travelled across Canada and around the world to do stories for CBC, including the 2011 Royal Wedding in London. Karen has worked in Washington and was the correspondent in Berlin, Germany, for three months in 2013, covering the selection of Pope Francis in Rome. Twitter @karenpaulscbc

With files from the CBC's Cameron MacIntosh, Brett Purdy and Steven D'Souza
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