Risk Insider: Bob Nevens Jr.

Insurance Implications of Ebola

By: | October 29, 2014 • 2 min read
Bob Nevens, Jr., AIS, ARM, is Director of Corporate Risk and Insurance at Houston Methodist Hospital. He can be reached at [email protected]

Dealing with an Ebola patient at your health care facility presents many risks. There are a few that stand out like employee safety, safety to the general public and patient population, environmental exposures, and even risk to your company’s directors and officers.

All of these could be tied together with one Ebola case, especially if the case isn’t properly handled.

First and foremost, update all your policies and procedures relating to infectious diseases. Stay current with the Centers for Disease Control and their requirements. Appoint a response team.

Train all those in your facilities to spot a potential Ebola patient and the proper procedures for isolation, treatment, and transfer. It’s likely your emergency department will be the front line and most exposed.

A general liability policy insures against third-party liabilities. In this case, third parties could claim they were infected at your facility and you failed to provide a safe environment in which to conduct regular business.

Your policy should have a duty to defend, however. I would suggest reviewing your coverage, paying close attention to wording associated with expected bodily injury and other policy exclusions.

Workers’ Comp Implications

Employee safety in treating infectious diseases is paramount to delivering effective care to patients. Have your employees practice taking on and off all appropriate protective gear.

In the event a health care worker contracts the virus, workers’ compensation would likely provide coverage. Review your policy and tie it to any umbrella or excess liability coverage. This is crucial because your work comp policy most likely has a disease limit, per claims and disease per policy limit.

An infected employee may also elect to file suit against an employer alleging negligence. If you have workers that work or volunteer outside the U.S. then you may want to look into foreign voluntary workers’ compensation and couple it with an accident and disability policy.

The hospital that treated the first casualty in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, and also had two nurses contract the virus is currently dealing with reputational loss and lost revenues.

The first place to look is your facility’s business interruption coverage. Be cautious, as coverage is typically triggered only when there is direct physical damage. Even more so, most contain a communicable disease exclusion or a severely sub-limited amount of coverage and require a governmental agency requiring limited or no access.

Allegations of Negligence

A directors’ and officers’ policy provides defense and protection for allegations of executive mismanagement. These claims can arise from a variety of sources: the state attorney general, financial donors, even employees.

Allegations could include failure to follow CDC protocol, not properly safeguarding the institution’s assets, or lack of proper training. A situation handled incorrectly could cause negative publicity thus leading to declining revenues and admissions as well as a loss of reputation.

In summary, updated procedures and training is crucial to avoiding the pitfalls of such high profile infectious disease situations. Check with your broker to ensure what, if any, coverage is available under your current program and what triggers the coverage.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]