Monday, November 11, 2019
When undertaking overseas surrogacy journeys, it is absolutely essential to have the right health insurance, to make sure that the surrogate and the newborn baby are both protected. The recent story about a Sydney couple, Ellice Mol and Rhys McGowan illustrates what can go wrong with surrogacy if health insurance isn’t obtained.
Ellice and Rhys live in Sydney and decided to undertake surrogacy in Canada. Their son was born six weeks early, resulting in a A$120,000 debt to the Canadian hospital. This cost is on top of whatever they spent in creating embryos in Australia (presumably to save money), shipping those embryos to Canada, engaging a surrogate and lawyer in Canada, travel etc.
Clearly, Ellice and Rhys did not have adequate or any health insurance for their child in Canada. Although Canada has a Medicare style system which covers the birth, it doesn’t cover anything going wrong for the care of the baby. The cost of health insurance in Canada ranges between A$5,000 and A$15,000.
I have seen cases where intended parents have undertaken surrogacy in Canada but not arranged health insurance, something has gone wrong and but for the grace of God they could have ended up with a bill ranging between A$100,000 and A$200,000. Ellice and Rhys were not so lucky.
One thing is for sure. If something goes wrong with the healthcare of the child overseas, everyone will be looking to the intended parents to pay. The risk lies with intended parents. It is common to see in retainer agreements of surrogacy agencies and lawyers concerning insurance to the effect of all care and no responsibility – and the risk for poor or inadequate health insurance falls upon the intended parents.
It is essential in my view that intended parents undertaking surrogacy overseas get legal advice from lawyers at both ends – from lawyers who specialise in the field, and only go to reputable surrogacy agencies. Health insurance needs to be checked extremely carefully and if needed a second opinion be obtained to ensure that adequate health insurance provides the cover, to avoid a mishap such as that which befell Ellice and Rhys.
The fact that the hospital bill alone is the total of what they should have spent in undertaking their Canadian surrogacy journey says it all. If you can’t afford adequate health insurance at the beginning of the journey, don’t undertake the journey.