What the Ebola crisis means for insurance

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The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has not left the Western world untouched, as the first of two Americans returns to the US from Liberia for treatment. But in addition to widespread concerns on the safety of travel, the virus has also led some to reevaluate the importance of some lines of insurance.

It’s certainly a validated concern—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of medical evacuation from a foreign area can reach as high as $100,000. The need for so-called medevac insurance can be paramount when travelers need to leave a remote area immediately.

Of course, for casual travelers, the insurance policy may not make much sense. According to an NBC News report, it is easier for many to cancel or postpone overseas trips than to invest in what could be a costly coverage.

Additionally, many generalist travel insurance policies include up to roughly $50,000 or so of medical evacuation insurance—enough for travelers headed to most areas.

Producers also need to read the fine print of these policies. Some medevac policies do not necessarily guarantee return to the US, instead specifying transportation to the nearest “qualified medical facility.” That leaves clients on their own in terms of arranging for travel—something they may not be fit to do if they’re lying in a hospital bed.

That means producers need to be thoughtful about who they pitch to. Clients who travel overseas on business may consider an individual medevac policy, assuming commercial coverage doesn’t already off it. Travelers headed to especially remote areas, or areas where disease is widespread, are also good candidates.

“My advice to travelers is that the normal travel medical policy will include enough medevac for most foreseeable circumstances, but if you’re really concerned, go ahead and buy the other,” Ed Perkins of SmarterTravel.com told NBC.

The CDC also advises producers to go over travel and travel health insurance with clients before an overseas trip, and locate proper medical services near their destination for reference in a worst-case scenario.

Clients should carry copies of their insurance policy identity cards with them when they travel, including any supplemental insurance purchased.

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  • Bryan James on 8/5/2014 12:50:51 PM

    Good to know. This is really valuable information, during the Ebola outbreak and otherwise. Thanks for reporting.

  • Bernard Nteguia on 8/22/2014 12:27:22 PM

    I just want to know if a local health insurance policy or Life insurance policy can cover the consequences of this Ebola outbreak

  • T.B. on 9/1/2014 10:03:57 AM

    Minimum risk with Ebola. Don't need any increase, even if traveling in countries concerned.

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