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How a Canadian woman ended up with a $950,000 bill giving birth in America

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A Canadian woman's Hawaiian vacation came with an unexpected surprise: a $950,000 medical bill when her water broke two months early.

Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, a resident of Saskatchewan, ultimately spent six weeks on bed rest at the hospital before giving birth. Her daughter, born premature, stayed in the hospital for two months. And Saskatchewan Blue Cross — a private insurer in Canada that sells travel policies, which cover medical emergencies abroad — has declined to pay the nearly $1 million bill. It says that "her medical emergency is excluded from coverage under the terms of her pre-existing condition provision."

Hucklack-Kimmel's experience is uniquely expensive; most births in the United States do not cost anywhere near $1 million. But at the same time, having babies in America is still way more expensive than anywhere else.

Data from the International Federation of Health Plans shows that it costs, on average, $10,002 to have a normal delivery in the United States and more than $17,000 for a C-section. That's more than any other country the group looked at.

baby costs

Pre-term births can be especially costly. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2005 that each pre-term birth requires an average of $33,200 in medical costs. That's much lower than Hucklack-Kimmel's bill, but also well above what many American families can afford to spend on a medical emergency.