Calgary Man Stranded in Mexico with Hefty Medical Bill Despite Insurance

Michael Smyrl, 70, suffered a major heart attack on Nov. 5, just five days into a 20-day cruise to the Panama Canal with his wife.

Michael Smyrl, 70, Faces Over $100k in Expenses After Heart Attack on Vacation

A Calgary resident, Michael Smyrl, is currently stranded in Mexico facing over $100,000 in medical and travel expenses after suffering a heart attack on a cruise, despite having travel insurance.

The Ordeal Begins

Michael Smyrl, 70, experienced a major heart attack on November 5, just five days into his 20-day Panama Canal cruise with his wife. The couple’s vacation turned into a nightmare when the ship docked at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where Smyrl was rushed to a local hospital. He underwent emergency surgery after suffering two additional heart attacks during the procedure.

Family’s Struggle and Insurance Challenges

Smyrl was cleared to fly home on November 16 on a medically assisted flight. However, his return has been delayed due to the inability of his insurance company, World Travel Protection, to secure a hospital bed in Alberta. “Our insurance company works with a bed-finder company who liaises with all of the hospitals and we’re trying to get to Edmonton, even Red Deer – just get us to a hospital,” said Kim Cameron, Smyrl’s step-daughter, expressing her frustration and concern.

Cameron highlighted the challenging situation her family faced with the hospital and insurance company. According to CTV News, she flew to Mexico to advocate for her parents but was informed that the hospital required direct payment from the patient, not dealing with insurance companies.

His family has been forced to pay more than $100,000 in medical bills and travel expenses, despite having travel insurance.

Insurance Company’s Response

CTV News reported that World Travel Protection communicated with the family, apologizing for the delays and acknowledging their efforts to expedite Smyrl’s return. However, the specifics of the situation remained unclear, with the bed-finding team unable to provide immediate solutions.

Conflicting Information on Hospital Bed Availability

While the insurance company reported difficulties in finding a hospital bed, Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirmed that there are currently beds and capacity available in the Calgary zone. AHS stated, “When a family requests an out-of-country transfer… we will do our best to work with health-care and health insurance providers to facilitate repatriation of the patient to Alberta.”

Insights from Travel Experts

Onanta Forbes, a local travel expert in Calgary, advised travelers to be aware of the limitations of their travel insurance, especially for medical bills incurred outside Canada. Forbes stressed the importance of understanding policy terms and conditions.

Desjardins Insurance, when reached out to for comment by CTV News, mentioned, “If you’re hospitalized while you’re outside of your home province, the insurer will generally pay the hospital bill directly to the hospital, though some hospitals may require the patient to pay immediately.”

As of now, the Smyrl family awaits Michael’s return, highlighting the complexities and uncertainties surrounding travel insurance and medical emergencies abroad. This incident serves as a cautionary tale for travelers to thoroughly understand their insurance coverage before embarking on international trips.