Ebola Insurance: Good Call Or Overkill?

Healthcare workers and first responders are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with Ebola and other infectious diseases. And while there are workers compensation policies in place to financially assist these individuals, many don’t go far enough. After all, the cost of Ebola treatment can be astronomical.

How astronomical?

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Nina Pham, the first patient to contract the disease from a source within the United States, racked up $110,000 in medical expenses for a 13-day stint in the hospital.

More from the report:

“Daily hospital care for Ebola can easily reach $8,500 per day, according to Lockton, a global insurance company in Kansas City, Mo.—$6,000 a day in an intensive care unit, plus $2,500 per day for additional costs, such as physician fees and aggressive support therapy. Costs may even be higher than that, says Eric Justin, Lockton’s chief medical officer, if there are other health complications. That was the case with the U.S.’s first Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was also on dialysis.

“Based on a two-week confinement, Lockton estimates that the minimum expense for an intensive care unit alone at any hospital would reach $100,000. Experimental medication expenses or care in a specialized biocontainment facility could easily push costs to $500,000 or more. That doesn’t account for potential complications like loss of hearing or vision, bringing disability or long-term health care costs into play.”


Ebola Insurance Coverage

Clearly, that is more than most people can afford to pay. Thankfully, Lloyd’s of London is now offering Ebola insurance through its U.S. distributor Specialty Insurance Advisors.

According to the Insurance Journal, this coverage would “protect healthcare and law enforcement workers in the event of accidental infection from the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.”

IJ notes that the coverage “goes beyond workmen’s compensation and disability insurance and protects individuals who work on the front lines in hospitals, emergency rooms, fire departments, hazmat units, ambulances, or in law enforcement who are in jeopardy of contracting blood-borne pathogens such as Ebola, HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.”

Under the plan, insured persons would receive a lump sum payment of as much as $200,000 dispersed in $20,000 chunks for as long as 10 months. Considering that an Ebola infection is either fatal or short-lived, it’s unclear how difficult it would be to get the full payout, but judging from the hefty hospital bills as well as the periphery costs of an infection, it’s a good thing that it’s supplemental coverage because you would need every last penny to afford the health costs.

In the case of Pham and her colleague Amber Joy Vinson — both of whom recovered from their Ebola infections — the hospital where they worked and contracted the disease has stepped up and agreed to cover costs. Not every patient will be as fortunate, so it may be time to think about adding supplemental coverage, especially if you work in one of the high-risk professions most likely to come into contact with the disease.


In Summary

While healthcare and government officials continue to urge calm and emphasize the difficulty in catching the Ebola virus, news stories are popping up around the country where health officials are either isolating someone exposed to the disease or diagnosing returning healthcare workers from West Africa with an infection. It’s enough to be concerned about, even if we’re nowhere near the epidemic stage. Considering the President has stated that there will be more cases within the U.S., you might want to hedge your bets now by contacting your agent to see if there are any additional options to guard against the disease.

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