Ebola: Health insurers stay calm but alert

The number of people who have contracted the often-fatal Ebola virus continues to climb worldwide.  More than 6,500 people have been infected and about have died since the outbreak in West Africa began over the summer.  President Obama considers Ebola a matter of national security, as Americans wait to see how many others in the U.S. will be hospitalized.

The events of the last few months have put us on edge: Are Americans at risk at home? Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta nor health insurance companies, which would have to bear the brunt of the cost of treatment were there to be an outbreak in the U.S., seem overly concerned about an outbreak here.

Spain is home to the first case of Ebola contracted outside Africa - a nurse who got Ebola while treating a patient who had contracted the disease in Africa. But Dr. Ajani P. Nimmagadda, an infectious disease expert and senior medical director for Cigna, says what happened in Spain isn't likely to happen here.  “We have an excellent infrastructure in place to prevent such outbreaks. Our hospital systems and health care providers are trained to identify high-risk patients and isolate them immediately,” she says.

In Texas, however, a man with Ebola was at first released from a hospital. He is now in critical condition. There is some question about whether Thomas Eric Duncan told a nurse at the hospital that he had been to Liberia and helped a pregnant woman with the virus.

Health care workers follow precautions

Nimmagadda says U.S. health care workers follow universal precautions to prevent the spread of infections between patients and themselves. Despite the Ebola patient in Texas, she says, “the possibility of widespread outbreak similar to what we are seeing in West Africa should be negligible.”