Kenyan man whose family received $550K in medical bills after death was not a student

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CBC News

WINNIPEG  –  A Kenyan man whose family received medical bills for more than $500,000 after his death was never enrolled as a student at the University of Manitoba, a university spokesperson has stated.

Last month, newspapers published a story about Tevin Obiga, 25. from Kenya who died on March 3 after spending weeks in intensive care due to blastomycosis, a fungal infection that affects the lungs.  Family members who spoke said Obiga was a fourth-year computer engineering student at the University of Manitoba, which would have required him to enrol in the Manitoba International Student Health Plan (MISHP) or show proof of health insurance through some other means.

However, university officials confirmed on Thursday that Obiga was not a student and at no time was he covered under the plan. “My heart goes out to Tevin and his family. It’s an absolutely terrible situation that happened,” said Brandy Usick, executive director of student engagement and success at the University of Manitoba, in an interview with Faith Fundal, host of CBC Manitoba’s afternoon radio show Up to Speed.

Usick said she was unable to speak about Obiga’s particular circumstances. “But what I can give assurance of is that if a student is registered at the University of Manitoba, they would have access to MISHP.” Obiga’s family received medical bills worth a total of around $550,000 after his death. (Submitted by Uche Nwankwo)

Obiga was admitted to a Winnipeg hospital in mid-January and moved to intensive care less than a week later. He died on March 3, just over a week after his mother and uncle flew from Kenya to be at his side.

Last week, his family received a medical bill totalling $517,764 for his stay at St. Boniface Hospital.

They were also billed $28,254 from the Grace Hospital, $1,405.55 from Victoria Hospital and $2,872.52 for doctor’s appointments and treatment, according to the Manitoba Liberals, which had been advocating for Obiga’s mother to be granted a visa to come see her son.

Huge bills

That brings the total of all medical bills upwards of $550,000. Manitoba’s public health system covers primary health care, including hospital stays, for all permanent residents who reside here at least six months out of the year.  Anyone who is not a permanent resident must have some other form of health insurance in order to be covered. All international students at the U of M who are enrolled in MISHP, which is provided through the Blue Cross, are covered, Usick said.

“I want to reassure international students that they do have coverage and that they should not hesitate to receive the health care that they require, and not to hesitate, and certainly to know that they can reach out if they have questions,” she said.

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