Travelling stateside can be bad for your health

These cases are hardly unprecedented in the land of too many guns and not enough affordable health care

“It ain’t true, is it, Joe?”

“Yes, kid, I’m afraid it is,” said the Ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson. “The old guy who writes this piece won’t go to see spring training this year. Or any year, prob’ly.”

Keen baseball fans will quickly recognize the basis of this fictional conversation, updated for my own nefarious purposes. Jackson – said to be illiterate, which is why I took liberties with the “prob’ly” above – was the best ballplayer of his time. He was also on the take.

Jackson and seven Chicago White Sox teammates were bribed to throw their 1919 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds, immortalized (by sportsdom’s most passionate game about immortalizing tiny statistics) as the “Black Sox Scandal.” Convicted the following year, Jackson emerged from court where a sad urchin tugged at his sleeve and uttered the famous question, sometimes rendered as “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” In that version, Jackson wordlessly slunk away.

Well, it’s a long way around from Shoeless Joe to the Hopeless Insured, but I’m taking it anyway, figuring the scenery might be good.

I’ve yearned to check out spring training for 60-odd years. Something always came up. Inertia, mostly. But this looked like the year.

I began poring over the AAA books. Searched in vain the British Newsagent’s huge magazine rack at Park Royal for the Sporting News. Gone – gone digital. Recalled the great 1946 Boston-St. Louis series, when pitcher Harry Brecheen won three games for the Cards. Decades later, still a boy of 12 inside, I worshipfully phoned him – the model of a courtly gent – at his Oklahoma home.

My wife and I were down to details like whether we’d take my 27-year-old British sedan or her 350,000-km Japanese pee-pot, and how we’d also visit my year-old granddaughter in California and my transplanted Winnipeg cousins in Santa Fe.

Then the air went out of my dreams analogous to the popped hope of the Joe Jackson saga’s urchin.

The CBC reported that two Canadians who, with the sweet naiveté of our nation, had journeyed to the great republic to the south thinking their health insurance protected them, were expensively disillusioned.

They got sick, were hospitalized and months later were beanballed, excuse the baseball term, for rejected claims for bills of over $100,000. Their illnesses were sudden and unrelated to previous health problems.

Aha, but John Toljanich, 74, of North Vancouver, and Joanne Parr, 67, of North Bay, Ontario, had made mistakes filling out their applications.

Parr assumed a question about health treatment for “12 months previous” referred to the date of her departure for the U.S., not of her application for insurance from Royal and SunAlliance. Toljanich hadn’t had trouble with ulcerative colitis since 1965 but takes a preventative drug that insurer Manulife deemed “treatment.”

Honest mistakes, apparently. Parr, who is legally blind, owes $128,000.

Toljanich, facing a $112,000 bill and now on antidepressants, furiously says that insurance companies go through medical records with a fine-tooth comb to find anything to get them off the hook for bills of that size.

These cases are hardly unprecedented in what I call – deadly serious now – the land of too many guns and not enough affordable health care. Ottawa independent insurance broker Bruce Cappon told the CBC he’s seen several seniors’ claims denied because of insurance companies’ “one strike you’re out” clause.

What’s certain is that at my age – just this side of 100, see accompanying photo – and fearing I might overlook the injury from my 1950 motorcycle mishap, I won’t be in the stands in Arizona next month when the umpire calls “Play ball!” •

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