Some Health Insurance Companies refuse to cover Ebola claims

Ebola burial

By USA Today

Sal Pain’s hazardous waste removal company has transported trash contaminated with the scariest of the scary, be it anthrax or asbestos, legionella to MRSA.

Now, for the first time in 30 years, he’s facing a business challenge like none before. His insurers won’t cover him for Ebola.

“Ebola is different,” Pain says. “Nobody wants to touch this with a 10-foot pole.”

The Ebola epidemic that has struck three countries in West Africa and on Wednesday claimed the life of a Liberian man visiting the United States has prompted an unprecedented worldwide public health response.

Now the fallout from the spread of the deadly virus has hit businesses and travelers. Businesses like Pain’s Bio-Recovery Corp. in New York and companies with workers abroad, including oil and mining companies, humanitarian organizations and transportation providers, have to evaluate how they should operate as the threat of Ebola looms and insurers refuse to help shoulder the risk.

Business owners worry about two things: interruptions in their money flow and danger to their employees, says Logan Payne, senior account manager at Lockton, a global insurance broker. Most businesses carry insurance to protect them in either scenario, Payne says.

In the case of Ebola, however, the insurance policy may not help. Many policies won’t cover any risk associated with Ebola, Payne says.

Timeline: Ebola in the USA

Brad Smith, vice president of CG Environmental-Cleaning Guys which decontaminated the Dallas apartment of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who died Wednesday, says the company is still negotiating with its insurance company about what’s covered.

“When they took us on, they knew what we did,” Smith says. “But Ebola is new to the United States of America. There is still a lot of information being gathered by a lot of smart people right now.”

Companies must consider their liability should an employee sent to an Ebola-affected area get sick and expose others, says Dave Evans, senior vice president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

“Businesses need to consider what will happen if an employee of theirs boards a plane and has Ebola,” Evans says. “What potential liability do they now have to other members of the public?”

Travelers, too, may find themselves unprotected.

Airports: Enhanced Screenings for Ebola

The CDC has encouraged U.S. citizens traveling to Ebola-affected countries to purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation for Ebola. If the coverage meets the Affordable Care Act standards, it covers care for illness from Ebola, but it might not cover everything a patient might need, such as experimental drugs or a medical flight back to the U.S. for treatment, says Carrie McLean, director of customer care at eHealthInsurance,

Some plans limit the insurance payout to a figure that might not be enough to cover the costs of the intensive treatment and quarantine that come with Ebola, McLean says.

“Those costs are going to add up,” she says.

Travelers with trip insurance who cancel trips to Ebola-affected areas might not see a payout. Most travel insurance policies pay only if trips are canceled for specific reasons such as death of a traveling companion, weather or an employment layoff, says Megan Singh, spokeswoman for Squaremouth, an online company that evaluates travel insurance products. A “cancel for any reason” clause can increase the cost of a travel insurance policy by 40%, she says.

“Fear is not covered by travel insurance,” she says.

Markets: Ebola drug stock dives after patient’s death

HCC Medical Insurance Services gave customers who hold its Atlas Travel policy 10 days to leave countries identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as high-risk for Ebola or face losing coverage, the company said in a statement.

Insurance quarrels aren’t stopping Pain’s company, Bio-Recovery Corp, from cleaning up planes quarantined for Ebola at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“This is our Michael Jordan moment. The fourth quarter,” Pain says. “When everyone else says no, we show up.”

 

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