Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel's $1M baby bill denied by Saskatchewan Blue Cross

A Toronto-based lawyer is interested in helping a Saskatchewan family fight its $1-million baby bill after Blue Cross denied their claim made during vacation in Hawaii.

Toronto lawyer Sivan Tumarkin interested in taking up case pro bono

Reece Huculak-Kimmel was born in a hospital in Hawaii, and the Saskatchewan parents are fighting a nearly $1-million bill. (Courtesy of Huculak-Kimmel family)

Saskatchewan Blue Cross won't reverse its decision to deny the claim of a Humboldt, Sask., family facing a bill of $950,000 after Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel gave birth prematurely while vacationing in Hawaii last year.

However, a Toronto-based lawyer is interested in helping the family fight the massive medical bill. 

Sivan Tumarkin, a partner with Samfiru Tumarkin Barristers and Solicitors, is offering his services pro bono to the Humboldt family in a case involving a hospital in Hawaii. 

Saskatchewan Blue Cross said it had provided the family with an explanation of its review, citing nine events that prevented it from accepting the claim, in a two-page letter dated Nov. 15, 2013. The family would not provide CBC News with the letter at this time. 

"The challenges facing this family are extraordinary and difficult," read a statement posted to the Saskatchewan Blue Cross website Monday morning. "As such, we urge Ms. Huculak to have our decision reviewed by an independent ombudsman. OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) is a national independent agency that provides impartial, third party reviews of customer concerns." 

Her husband, Darren Kimmel, said they're happy to hear a lawyer is interested in taking up their case. 

"It's great to have someone on your side who wants to fight for you, so that's a very nice offer," Kimmel said.

Saskatchewan resident Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, left, gave birth to Reece nine weeks early while in Hawaii. (David Shield/CBC)
"I guess our next steps are whether or not we proceed with the lawyer. We have a couple decisions to make here in the next day or two and we'll see what becomes of it."

The couple had purchased travel insurance with Blue Cross, but the insurance company denied the claim, citing a pre-existing condition.

The couple's case has attracted attention across Canada and in the U.S. Kimmel said the coverage has been good on several levels. 

"I think we got our message across to Blue Cross, and from what I'm hearing, we've sure made a lot of people aware of their travel insurance plans and such."

Lynda Dobbin-Turner, from Lavenham, Man., was one of the Canadians touched by the family's story. She set up a gofundme page last week to help pay the bill. 

The crowdfunding account has raised more than $7,900 as of Monday around noon.

Kimmel said if Blue Cross pays their hospital bills, he and his wife plan to give every penny donated to a neo-natal intensive-care unit in Saskatoon.

Insurance company turns family down

Huculak-Kimmel gave birth nine weeks early while on holiday. Her premature daughter spent two months in intensive care.

Saskatchewan resident Darren Kimmel, a new dad of his baby born in Hawaii, says he's not happy with how his insurance claim was handled. (Supplied photo)
The family had purchased travel insurance, but were turned down by Blue Cross, which cited a "pre-existing condition." The insurer said a bladder infection two months before the pregnancy meant Huculak-Kimmel was ineligible to receive coverage.

But when they bought the insurance, the family says they were never asked about any pre-existing conditions by the insurance agent.

During Huculak-Kimmel's hospital stay, Blue Cross had contacted the two, saying the insurance had run out before the baby was born. Kimmel said it didn't make much sense to extend the insurance when the pair had already been refused by the company.

The two tried, but were unsuccessful, in their attempt to get back to Saskatchewan as soon as they heard the claim was denied. One company wouldn't take the family, while another company said it required a full surgical team to travel with the mother on the plane.