Ebola Insurance: Are You Covered?
With no vaccination and no cure, Ebola is a disease you really don’t want to get. Unfortunately Ebola is also extremely transmissible, spreading from person to person through blood and bodily fluids, including sweat. Just touching an Ebola patient is enough to spread the disease – even if that patient is already dead. Add to this the fact that Ebola kills 90 percent of the people it infects, and it’s easy to see why the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa is causing huge global concern.
Thus far, more than 1,700 cases of Ebola have lead to just under 1,000 deaths. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have suffered most, but Ebola patients in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have also been reported. Health advocates say that the disease is spreading faster than it ought to because patients aren’t taking proper precautions to avoid infecting others. During an Ebola outbreak, anyone showing symptoms of the disease should be kept in strict quarantine and communities are recommended to stay home as much as possible and avoid physical contact with one another.
However, some villages in West Africa have been fed misinformation and have been lead to believe that Ebola is the result of contact with foreign health workers. Thanks to those rumors, many patients are going untreated and being allowed contact with friends and family, who then become ill themselves. Without proper health care advice, communities may also be unaware that Ebola can spread from the dead to the living, and that traditional burial rituals must therefore be avoided. If you’re a frequent traveler to West Africa or simply concerned about your Ebola risk, you may be wondering:
Will my current health insurance policy cover treatment for Ebola?
The quick answer is – yes. If you are traveling abroad with a travel health insurance policy (or a global or expat insurance policy that offers health care coverage both at home and overseas), treatment for an illness such as Ebola should be covered by that policy. Most insurance policies will pay for hospitalization and treatment associated with an infectious disease like Ebola, including ambulatory services, inpatient room and boarding, and necessary medicines.
Although coverage from an insurer may be comprehensive, medical care in Ebola-stricken countries often is not. If the worst should happen, most Ebola patients would prefer to return to their home country to seek treatment, as was recommended for the two American medical workers who became ill with Ebola in Liberia and were taken back to the United States for treatment. Both patients have shown signs of improvement following doses of a new and unapproved Ebola drug, but being back in the United States is useful to Ebola treatment for other reasons, too. Because there is no cure for Ebola, patients must fight the illness’s symptoms in order to survive – a task more easily achieved with access to intravenous fluids, oxygen devices and antibiotics to ward off secondary infections.
The majority of travel health insurance policies do offer emergency evacuation to policyholders who become injured or ill in a country without adequate medical services, normally covering 100 percent of the evacuation costs. Some travel insurance policies will also offer evacuation from areas where an epidemic has been declared, even if the policyholder is not yet ill. The West African Ebola outbreak has yet to be declared an epidemic, but at least one country has announced a state of emergency, and airlines are starting to suspend flight from the affected region. If you are currently traveling in an Ebola-affected country, contact your insurance company to see if you can claim insurance benefits on a flight back home: keeping in mind that if you are not ill and if flights are readily available, you may have to pay that travel expense out of pocket. Travel insurance may reimburse you for trip cancellation, but again – check with your insurer to make sure.
It’s also important to remember that if you are ill and require emergency evacuation, you still need to contact your insurance company to confirm your repatriation benefits. Anyone traveling on a global health insurance policy rather than a travel policy is unlikely to recoup the cost of lost travel expenses due to fear of an Ebola epidemic; however, a non-travel health policy will still cover hospitalization and emergency evacuation.
Do keep in mind that many coverage plans won’t cover medical expenses if the policyholder has knowingly entered into a dangerous situation: if you board a plane for Guinea tomorrow and contract Ebola, your insurer could legitimately refuse to cover the cost of your care, citing personal negligence coverage exceptions. Again, communication with your insurance company is key. If you’ve already planned a trip near West Africa or if you need to travel to that reason for work, Ebola-related health costs might be covered.
Let your insurer know where you’re going and why, and they can recommend additional benefits or explain how to use the coverage you’ve got if Ebola becomes a genuine health concern. Assuming you’re not planning to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia or any country nearby, there’s no need to waste too much time worrying about Ebola-related insurance coverage. Saying that, now is as good a time as any to remember that infectious diseases can spread without warning — and holding a comprehensive health insurance policy is good protection against unexpected illness.
Health coverage can’t cure Ebola, but it can ensure that whatever your medical needs, they are met quickly and with high quality care. If you want to find out more about coverage for Ebola or other infectious diseases, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our advisors have been keeping up to date with the latest news and its potential impact on insurance policies and will be able to provide you with the specific information you require.