Spring break injury nightmare for U of M grad student

A vacation to Mexico City turned horrific for University of Minnesota graduate student Zachary Newell. The 30-year-old had a seizure and fell down some stone stairs, leaving him with severe injuries.

Zachary’s father, Michael Newell, immediately flew from Minneapolis to be by his son’s hospital bedside. When he got there, he realized that his son’s medical insurance wasn’t going to help him in this time of crisis. 

“He basically landed entirely on his face,” said Michael. ‘Fractured his – the forehead part of his skull. Tore part of his upper lip away from the nose had a huge gash from his lower lip down to his chin. We’re pretty desperate.”

Michael is optimistic about Zachary’s recovery, but not so positive about paying for the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Michael says his son called Blue Cross Blue Shield before he left to see if he was covered and was told he was, but he was apparently given bad information.  

“He had contacted Blue Cross Blue Shield and said he was traveling internationally, without apparently actually researching, it told him he was covered,” said Michael.

Michael hopes to leave the hospital and Mexico in a few days, but he says while everyone has been kind, the country doesn't let anyone leave the hospital until the bill is paid. Michael is cashing out his retirement and finding comfort where he least expected it.

“And as soon as I explain I’m in Mexico - excuse me I’m getting emotional," said Michael. "As soon as I explain the situation, they spend more time offering support and prayer for him than – Blue Cross won’t even give me straight answers."

After Fox 9 called Blue Cross, Michael told us company officials called him right away and faxed to him what he’d been asking for since last Friday. Blue Cross Blue Shield faxed a declination of coverage, which will allow Zachary to use the travel insurance he purchased before the trip. It won’t pay for much of the large bill, but it helps.  

Blue Cross can’t talk about the specific case due to HIPPA laws, but did say the following: “Most health insurance plans have benefits that cover medical treatment in other countries. Purchasing a short-term travel insurance policy is another option for securing international medical coverage." Blue Cross advises you call your health insurer before leaving the country to understand your benefits.

For more information about Zachary and his recovery process, click here.