This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Adding to their grief, the family of deceased Canadian skier Sarah Burke faces a hefty medical bill for care she received in Utah which national and international columnists have singled out as proof of what ails the U.S. health care system.
While training in a half-pipe in Park City, the freestyle skier crashed on Jan. 10, tearing a vertebral artery in her neck that caused bleeding in her brain. She was flown to the University of Utah's Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City where, after, nine days in neuro-critical care, she died.
Early news reports pegged her medical bill at $550,000, referring to an estimate listed on a website set up by Burke's agent to help her husband, Rory Bushfield, raise money.
But on Jan. 20, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said the Burke family has not yet received a hospital bill from the U., according to a statement it attributed to Burke's publicist Nicole Wool.
"Based on early estimates, total charges for Sarah's care are expected to be approximately $200,000. Once charges are finalized, the University will work with Health Canada to determine what type of coverage may be available and what their contribution will be, as Sarah is a Canadian citizen," Wool said.
The site now claims to have raised more than $285,000 to date enough to cover her medical bills. Any future contributions will be used to create a foundation honoring Burke's legacy and the ideals she promoted, according to Wool.
"The irony is," that had the accident occurred in Canada, "her care would have been covered because, unlike the U.S., Canada has a system of universal coverage,"author and former insurance executive Wendell Potter noted Monday in the Huffington Post.
Potter, now an analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, bemoans how medical debt forces 700,000 American families to file for bankruptcy each year.
"No one in Canada finds themselves in that predicament, nor do they face losing their homes as many Americans do when they become critically ill or suffer an injury," Potter wrote.
The notion that Canadians flock in large numbers to the U.S. for care is a myth, he said. "Polls in Canada consistently show high levels of satisfaction among citizens with their country's single-payer system."
Robert Remington, at the Calgary Herald, was perplexed about differing reports on the bill's amount, which he chalked up to "vagaries of a private health system dominated by private insurers."
While big insurers almost never pay the sticker price for care, the uninsured do and the price can be double, he said, quoting medical experts.
"It is, indeed, a sobering reminder to Canadians how lucky we are," wrote Remington. "As one commentator wrote of the Burke family's experience with the U.S. health care system: 'We are sorry for your loss. Here's your bill.'"
Burke was not adequately insured in the U.S., because her ski association only covers sanctioned events and she was injured at an unsanctioned competition. An association spokeswoman said athletes are forewarned about the limitations of their coverage; she couldn't say whether Burke had a supplemental policy.
Officials at the U. declined comment, citing federal privacy laws.
Burke's publicist, however, expressed gratitude in a statement for the university's "ongoing support both in caring for Sarah and the family, as well as helping them understand and resolve questions related to billing."
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Huffington Post editorial • http://huff.to/AqZqHT
Calgary Herald column • http://bit.ly/yoiq8t