So far, it seems, America has dodged a bullet. We had a patient come to Dallas from Africa with the deadly Ebola virus, and American health care practices and universal precautions disciplines were put to the test. Before this man passed away from the disease, he infected a few others, but fortunately we were able to contain the outbreak to just a couple of health care workers who treated him.
Credit goes to the skill, discipline, dedication and precautions of those who helped care for America’s handful of Ebola patients. But a lot of credit goes to luck, as well: The original U.S. patient went to a hospital very quickly after getting sick, and does not appear to have infected other people at home, on the train, in cafes and restrooms, who could have in turn infected others. Things could easily have turned out very different.
As small as it was, though, the outbreak demonstrated that even in America, health care professionals and first responders are still financially vulnerable to economic devastation that may occur as a result of pathogen exposure.
Remember – it was Ebola making headlines at the end 2014. But Hepatitis B, C, HIV and tuberculosis are all still out there and still dangerous – and can still bring devastating financial consequences along with the health problems they present to the infected.
Don’t Rely on Workers’ Compensation
True, in theory, workers’ compensation insurance is supposed to help replace the lions’ share of your income if you are disabled by a workplace accident. But when it comes to these hazards, it’s not always readily apparent where you contracted the infection. You may have been exposed to a blood-borne or aerosol-borne pathogen without ever realizing it. And if you can’t demonstrate that it was work related, workers compensation insurance isn’t necessarily going to pick up the claim.
According to the Council on Disability Awareness, about 95 percent of accidents and illnesses are not work-related. If you came down with a disability, your chances of actually collecting benefits from a workers compensation policy are only 1 in 20.
Indeed, some observers have written that even if the virus contraction was work-related, the disease is not “peculiar” enough to most professions to warrant protection under workers compensation insurance.
Even if workers compensation did kick in, it could take weeks before there is final approval on the claim. Meanwhile, you could be too sick or too infectious to work, and you’ve still got bills to pay and a family to feed.
Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that health care workers incur about 800,000 needle stick accidents every year – with about 16,000 of them exposing the worker to HIV infection.
Insurance companies have already started to exclude Ebola from their list of covered hazards in some lines. But other carriers have begun offering specialized coverage, even offering a large “lump sum” in the event of the contraction of Ebola – structured similarly to other dread disease policies currently available for things like cancer.
More broadly, now’s the time to take a clear-eyed look at what happens if you have a disabling injury or disease? Will you be able to keep working? Can you still be a doctor? How long will you be impaired? What will you live on in the meantime?
At DoctorDisability.com, we are here to help you answer those vital questions – wherever you are in your career. Call us today at 866-899-7318 for a no-obligation consultation and quote. We have plans for meaningful financial protection designed to be affordable for you even if you are in residency or still a medical student.