CANADA A family stuck in a long wait for an...

A family stuck in a long wait for an NB Medicare card, told to pay a $30,000 bill in 30 days.

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The McGee family moved to New Brunswick from Maine and applied for Medicare numbers in October. The family is still waiting and owes $30,000 in medical bills. (Presented by Charlotte McGee)

Charlotte McGee and her family have accumulated over $30,000 in medical bills while waiting for their Medicare cards in New Brunswick and are now being told to pay.

Last year, McGee moved to St. Andrews from Maine with her husband Brodie, a nurse who used to live in New Brunswick, and two young children. They applied for Medicare in October and have been waiting ever since.

McGee said her family doesn’t have the money to pay medical bills.

“We just don’t have $30,000, whether it’s cash, a line of credit or a family member, we absolutely can’t pay a $30,000 hospital bill,” she said.

McGee said the family moved to New Brunswick partly because Brody has family in the province and partly because it seemed more affordable.

Medical bills relate to routine childhood vaccinations, emergency room visits for stomach problems, and psychiatric care that required hospitalization.

Health Secretary Dorothy Shepard was unavailable for comment, but an official statement from the Department of Health said the effective date for Medicare cards could be set retroactively, making reimbursement for related services possible.

But that doesn’t calm McGee.

“Even if we had the opportunity [pay it] … I can’t imagine how long we will have to wait to see this refund money,” Charlotte said.

CBC previously reported that the province is dealing with a backlog of Medicare applications due to a record number of immigrants settling in New Brunswick and a historic wave of Canadians moving east.

Although the delay in obtaining Medicare cards is not the fault of the couple, the bill they must pay as a result of New Brunswick government debt has now been turned over to the collection agency.

About two weeks ago, the agency told McGee she had 30 days to either pay in full or provide a Medicare number or the debt would be reported to a credit rating agency.

If bills are not paid, it will affect the couple’s credit score, which will increase the cost of borrowing money. McGee said it could interfere with plans she and her husband were to refinance in their home.

“Mortgage refinancing doesn’t quite look like it’s in the pipeline for us right now,” she said.

pregnant without a health machinee

Brody McGee said he doesn’t like his credit history to suffer, but he’s more concerned about the lack of concern for his pregnant wife.

She is 22 weeks pregnant and has been left without basic prenatal care such as an ultrasound due to fear of additional bills.

“She is very hesitant to access more services without a Medicare number,” Brody said. “She’s afraid we’re going to have this crippling debt and we really don’t have money for where I’m the only income.”

Brody is a registered nurse and has some prenatal care experience. He said he was doing his best to keep track of his wife’s measurements and their baby’s heartbeat. However, it would be easy to miss a potential problem, he said.

“What if, God forbid, she has some sort of genetic anomaly or maybe she needs some sort of treatment for something she’s not getting,” he said. “It’s really stressful. What if we missed something?

Although Charlotte was born in the United States, Brody is a Canadian citizen and had a provincial Medicare card in the past.

Additional paperwork is required for non-Canadians applying for Medicare, but Charlotte said she was very thorough and checked all the boxes. She said her situation in New Brunswick was not related to delays in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Medicare contacted us and requested additional documents due to my immigration status, and they wanted more proof that I have the right to be here,” she said. While she does not yet have a permanent resident card, she said she provided the same documents to the Department of Health that were requested by the federal government.

The Department of Health said in a statement that the province is unable to comment on individual cases, but that individuals having difficulty applying for Medicare may contact Medicare Customer Advocacy.

“A client’s attorney can help answer questions about information that may be missing from their application and tell patients what their rights are when dealing with New Brunswick Medicare,” the statement said.

Charlotte McGee said she left multiple messages with a Medicare advocate and received a response once with no follow up.

Working in healthcare without insurance

Brody McGee is a Registered Nurse in New Brunswick and has a year left to graduate before becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

“It’s very confusing because I work in healthcare and yet I can’t access healthcare,” he said.

He held a full-time position as a nurse before moving on to a casual job. He currently has short-term nursing contracts in the Northwest Territories, where he says the profession is better paid and more respected.

Dr. Mark McMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says more can be done to show healthcare workers that they are valuable members of the system. (Medical Society of New Brunswick)

Dr. Mark McMillan, president of the Medical Society of New Brunswick, said the organization is working with health authorities and the Department of Health on an aggressive retention and recruitment strategy.

“We need to do everything we can to retain, retain and of course hire employees, and we need to do better to ensure that people have access to the right health care when they need it,” he said.

McMillan said more could be done to prove to healthcare workers that they are valuable members of the system.

In the long term, Brody McGee said he would like to work exclusively in New Brunswick, but the current situation with Medicare is not conducive to such a transition.

“It’s really a barrier to what’s right,” he said.

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