Medical Emergency Expats Face Massive Bills

An expat without medical insurance was detained in a Saudi Arabian hospital after running up a £175,000 bill he could not pay.

The expat went to the hospital when he felt unwell and was admitted for tests.

After two days, his condition worsened and doctors suggested he should move to a government hospital. However, he stayed on at the private hospital for 10 more days.

He was not allowed to leave the private facility until he paid his bill and as he claimed he had no funds, police were called.

Friends hastily collected a third of the cash he needed while the expat moved to the lobby so he was not occupying a room and adding to his bill.

The stand-off finally ended when the Saudi government’s health department intervened and ruled he only needed to pay the bill for the first two days of his stay at the private hospital.

Premature baby

Meanwhile, a British couple in New York were hit with a £130,000 bill when their baby was born 11 weeks early.

Weighing in at just three pounds, baby Dax is doing well in hospital – but doctors say he won’t be fit enough to travel for at least three months.

Mum Katie Amos and dad Lee Johnston fear their medical insurance does not cover pregnancy and that they will have to find the cash to settle the bill from family, friends and borrowing.

“Dax is fit and well,” said Mr Johnston. “Our only worry is the cost of the treatment as he will have to stay in hospital until March.

“Not only that, at least one of us needs to be here and the costs of travel and accommodation come in on top of the medical costs.”

Private medical insurance

Burger chain McDonald’s has stepped in and offered free accommodation nearby, while the parents have started an online appeal for cash which has raised more than $10,000 so far.

The stories highlight the perils of travelling without adequate medical cover for expats.

Basic travel insurance is not suitable for permanent expats and often excludes conditions related to pregnancy.

Although far-fetched, women should consider a pregnancy test before travelling to make sure they have the right medical insurance.

Expats should consider specialist private medical insurance, especially if they are retired or work for a company that does not offer cover as part of their overseas living allowance package.