Insurers Write Ebola Exclusions Into New Policies

Expats off to their next assignment could find medical insurance hard to come by if they have had a brush with the Ebola virus in Africa.

For major insurance companies in the US and Europe are making their policies Ebola free zones by writing in extra clauses to exclude them from paying out if a new customer catches the deadly disease.

Businesses and expats may see their insurance premiums hiked if they have passed through West Africa or had medical treatment in a country where the outbreak has struck.

Doctors say Ebola is contracted from coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, which is why so many medical staff have been affected. Insurers are concerned that if a doctor or nurse contracts the disease, Ebola could be passed on in the incubation stage to other patients.

So far, more than 10,000 cases of the virus have been reported across Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria, with a handful of cases in Europe, the UK and US. Almost half that number has died.

Virus risks

Insurance companies are opting out of insuring business travellers and expats linked with the troubled regions in Africa.

They are also cracking down on businesses and organisations outside the region that might face quarantine restrictions if a worker is suspected of contracting Ebola.

Business and medical insurance companies are offering customers two quotes – one taking Ebola risks into account and the other excluding any cover for contact with the virus.

Expats who take a post in the US are safeguarded from the Ebola insurance restrictions as most employers have State-regulated policies that are free from extra underwriting precautions.

Many countries have screening for Ebola in place at dedicated airports and border crossings which must be used by anyone travelling from a country connected with the outbreak.

Ebola task forces

The US has five airports set up to test passengers flying in, while the UK has screening at Heathrow and Gatwick.

“Probably the biggest issue coming up is business interruption,” said a spokesman for global insurers Aon.

Business interruption insurance is linked to events like key employees taking extended absences if they suffer from Ebola or the quarantine of an airliner or cruise ship.

Aon has also established an Ebola task force to handle underwriting and claims linked to the virus, and many other insurance companies are following their lead.