The Manitoba government has reached a new deal with a U.S. hospital that offers services to Manitobans living in the southeastern part of the province.
The Altru Agreement made headlines last year after Global News exposed a loophole that left Sprague, Man. resident Robin Milne with a $118,000 medical bill.
Exclusive: No more medical bills for Robin Milne, province pays final half of $118K US health bill
In October 2016, Milne had a heart attack at his Manitoba home and was rushed to the nearest hospital in Roseau, Minn., part of a long-standing, but little-known agreement with the province known as the Altru Agreement. He ended up stuck with a hospital bill of more than $118,000.
At the time, the Manitoba government refused to pay for the bill. Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province did not have the authority to make these type of payments.
WATCH: Manitoba man stuck with huge hospital bill after massive heart attack at home
After months of investigation by Global News, the province eventually covered the entire bill.
The province said the agreement was more than two decades old and consisted of a short three-page document that needed to be renegotiated.
“There was clearly a problem with the contract and how it was arranged,” Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Thursday. “It was way too open to interpretation.”
RELATED: Health Minister ‘eager’ to speak with U.S. hospital over Manitoba man’s $118K medical bill
Those negotiations took more than a year to complete, but the province said this week a new deal was reached.
“We can confirm an agreement in principle has been reached between Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and Altru and LifeCare in Minnesota,” Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a written statement.
“The new agreement ensures residents in the RM of Piney and Buffalo Point First Nation will continue to receive coverage for emergency and primary care across the border at facilities in Warroad and Roseau in a way that is sustainable for Manitoba’s health-care system.”
A mailer was sent out to affected residents two weeks ago to explain the changes.
LISTEN: Robin Milne explains what the mailer said, and his concerns about coverage changes
Coverage for emergency and primary care services will continue. Patients who need to an appointment with a specialist will be referred to a Manitoba specialist.
One big change for patients is physiotherapy and rehabilitation services are not covered in the U.S. under the agreement.
It also explicitly states “services at other sites in the United States are not covered under this agreement.”
If other services are needed, patients must be flown back to Winnipeg.
It’s a situation that is all too familiar to Milne. When he had his heart attack and needed urgent care, that LifeFlight never came.
“I really think that the emergency part of it, being in the situation that I was in, still hasn’t been addressed,” Milne said. “I haven’t heard a thing and you know it’s just something that’s always in the back of your mind wondering why it didn’t happen that day.”
For the first time, Goertzen admitted it was a breakdown in communication that resulted in no flight showing up to bring Milne back to Manitoba. But it’s a situation the Health Minister believes has now been addressed and taken care of in the new agreement.
“We had to ensure that there was a better communication system between the hospital in Roseau and Warroad and the Health Sciences Centre in particular. There has been more clarity in terms of where that call comes into, and how its received,” Goertzen said. “We haven’t seen any incidents since then and we’ll continue to monitor but the improvement of the communication should ensure that transfer back to Winnipeg happens in a way that it should happen.”
Read: the mailer distributed by the Manitoba government
View this document on Scribd