While the numbers of people being treated for Ebola are still relatively low in the U.S., insurance companies are taking all precautions against accepting any new patients who’ve contracted it.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the original patient treated in Dallas wracked up bills of $100,000 despite not surviving the ordeal. Those numbers have lead to a scramble to write coverage exclusions into standard policies, which cover the hospitals, event organizers, and other businesses that are vulnerable to local disruptions.
Both the U.S. and Britain are moving ahead with these exclusions, despite the introduction of Obama’s universal healthcare reform, which offered no refusal for pre existing conditions. Apparently Ebola doesn’t fall under the no refusal offer, at least not any longer. Businesses who are insuring travelers to West Africa will also see rising costs to renew their policies, since the rate of people returning to the U.S. who require quarantine is high, and expensive.
Some policies are opting to change their terms because people traveling to West Africa pose a significantly higher risk than the average person. Others are taking on a “case by case” basis to best determine what’s appropriate while all the kinks are being worked out in the system.
It’s unlikely that workers compensation and liability insurance policies will be affected by these changes however since they are regulated at a state level. Meaning that if someone gets sick his or her medical costs and lost time from work will likely still be covered.
New concepts from companies have been popping up to deal with both the potentials of a higher Ebola outbreak and also the perceived risks that companies are sorting through to determine what to do about their insurance policies. One such company is Aon PLC, which has introduced an “Ebola Task Force” to monitor the spread of the virus and help determine how high the risks are in a particular area. Ideally such a program would allow their clients to make responsible decisions around their policies and allow for some peace of mind.
Last week the U.S. government introduced the condition that anyone returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea (the three epicenters of the outbreaks), will have to fly into one of five airports that have been prepped with higher screening process in an effort to halt the virus.
So far, nearly 5,000 people have died of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, while the U.S. death roll remains under a dozen.