Tag Archives: Zika

More on Zika and Medical Travel

Ian Youngman posted the following article on IMTJ.com last Friday.

http://www.imtj.com/articles/does-zika-pose-threat-medical-tourism/

This is in addition to the posts I wrote last month, “Will Zika Impact Medical Travel to Latin America?“, “Insurers’ Have Zika on Radar“, “OSHA To Weigh In On Interim Guidelines for Zika this Spring“, and “Zika to Cost Latin America and Caribbean $3.5B“.

 

Zika to Cost Latin America and Caribbean $3.5B

Three weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how the Zika virus may affect medical travel to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Today, Business Insurance.com (article unavailable online due to error) reported that the World Bank warned that the spread of the Zika virus across Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to cost those regions about $3.5 billion in forgone economic output.

A full article can be found here.

According to the article, the World Bank is offering $150 million in financing to those countries combating the disease.

This money is nearly three times the the amount of money requested by the United Nations’ health arm on Wednesday.

However, officials at the World Health Organization said that they needed $56 million to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The officials also said that the short-term funding request would be used to speed up research, vaccine development and diagnostics of the relatively unknown virus, and would last until June.

OSHA To Weigh In On Interim Guidelines for Zika this Spring

Continuing the discussion from my previous posts on the Zika virus, “Will Zika Impact Medical Travel to Latin America?” and “Insurers’ Have Zika on Radar“, Gloria Gonzalez, of Business Insurance.com, has written today that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is aiming to publish interim guidelines on protecting workers from occupation exposure to the virus this spring.

OSHA is the US government’s health and safety watchdog responsible for overseeing workplace accidents and safety.

As I mentioned previously in “Insurers’ Have Zika on Radar”, US insurance companies are monitoring the virus and are educating their members, but have not determined what it will cost the payer community.

OSHA’s involvement signals that the Zika virus is not only a concern in general health care, but for workers’ compensation as well.

In a report this evening on CBS News, there was no evidence that mosquitoes in the US are carrying the virus, but health officials expect that in the Southern US, there will be a spreading of the virus to the domestic mosquito population.

So like the CDC, OSHA is taking the spread of the virus seriously. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of Labor for occupational safety and health, was reported in Gonzalez’ article as saying the following at a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health today in Washington:

Coming soon to a federal office near you is the Zika virus, and we’re quite concerned about it.”

Mr. Michaels also added that “there’s growing concern across the federal government. We’ve heard from a bunch of agencies about the Zika virus. We’re developing interim guidelines for protecting workers for you all to see, both for your workers who go overseas [workers’ comp and medical travel is a stupid and ridiculous idea, and a non-starter, eh, Mr. Wilson?] , but also we’re seeing the first cases in the United States, and we have to be prepared for that as well.”

Mr. Michaels also said that agency officials are reviewing a preliminary draft and soliciting feedback from other federal agencies, but that they hope to publish the guidance this spring.

He mentioned that similar guidance was published last year in response to the Ebola outbreak, with requirements and recommendations for protecting workers whose work activities are conducted in environments known or reasonably suspected to be contaminated with the virus.

In an alert published by Ben Huggett of the law firm, Littler, Mendelson P.C., back in late January, under the OSHA Act, employees may refuse to work only where there is an objectively “reasonable belief that there is imminent death or serious injury”.

An employee refusing to work without an objective belief may result in disciplinary action, but Huggett advised employers to take extreme care to avoid such adverse actions due to a refusal to work caused by concerns about Zika.

What does this mean for workers’comp?

It represents another exposure for loss should a worker contract he virus and pass it on to a pregnant woman, who then delivers a microcephaly baby. Or, the infected individual could pass it on to a sexual partner, or to a mosquito, if they are bitten, further spreading the disease.

But it also give us an opportunity to explore the feasibility of implementing medical travel into workers’ comp, because most assuredly, they would most likely be treated where they were infected, and not back in the US. Having a worker treated in a local hospital, say in Brazil, that also caters to medical travel, would prove that medical care in Latin America is not dangerous or primitive.

Such views of the world of medicine outside our shores are no longer valid, and given the ability of diseases to spread rapidly around the world, such views are outdated, no longer apply in a globalized world. It is essential that governments at all levels, and the business community as well, remove all barriers and obstacles to providing the best medical care available, no matter where that happens to be.

To do otherwise is foolish.

 

Insurers’ Have Zika on Radar

As a follow-up to my last post on the Zika virus and what the medical travel industry should be doing about it, I want to direct you to what Shelby Livingston wrote last week in Business Insurance.

She said that American health care insurers are closely monitoring the virus, educating their members, but have not yet figured out what it will cost payers.

A spokesperson for Aetna said, “We are in contact with the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. federal agencies, state and local health departments, health care providers and others so that we can provide timely, relevant and accurate information from the CDC to our members and customers. Additionally, we have distributed health information from the CDC to our disease management and case management teams to help support our members.

The statement also said, that it is premature to predict health care costs associated with the Zika virus.

Anthem posted a message on Twitter, Livingston reported, cautioning travelers to the Caribbean to heed the CDC’s warnings; UnitedHealth Group has published updates on its website, but did not respond to her requests for comment on how they are responding to the virus, or whether they are projecting costs associated with the virus.

As I noted in my post last week, this virus may have a chilling effect on your business and the health of your patients. It is advisable to monitor what the US insurers say and do going forward.

Will Zika Impact Medical Travel to Latin America?

By now, we have all heard about the Zika outbreak in Brazil that has led to many children being born with microcephaly, a disease that causes the baby to be born with a small head and brain.

But with the World Health Organization’s announcement that it is a global health emergency, and that several cases have been found throughout other Western hemisphere countries and the US, one through sexual contact in Texas, the medical travel industry needs to be concerned that they prepare their patients to deal with the possibility of infection.

In addition, medical travel facilitators should work closely with the medical personnel in the target destination to guarantee that not only is the area free of the mosquitoes that carry the disease, but that the facilities are capable of handling an outbreak of Zika, especially if foreign patients are involved.

Medical travel facilitators should also take precautions to ascertain if patients are, or will become pregnant before going to any of these countries where Zika has been found.

An ounce or more of prevention will be worth a whole lot of cure.