Fear of financial losses from Zika prompts insurers to assess risk

As the Zika pandemic threatens to put some insurers out of business, payers and brokers are scrambling to assess the risk to their bottom lines, Healthcare Finance reported.

Most of the costs would come from long-term care of children born with severe birth defects caused by the disease, according to the article. Actuaries are running various scenarios related to how the mosquito-borne virus might spread and considering capital liability and reinsurance, actuary and pandemic modeling expert J. Doug Fullam said. Managing risk by purchasing reinsurance to cover catastrophic losses became common for property insurers after Hurricane Andrew, Fullam told Healthcare Finance, but is rare among health insurers.

Concerned about how developing countries will finance the fights against Zika, the World Bank recently launched the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, an insurance market for pandemic risk, FierceHealthcare reported.

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In the U.S., Fullam said the climate's effect on the mosquito population and the length of time it takes to produce a vaccine are the two primary factors influencing whether there's a large Zika outbreak here. As of May 18, 544 travel-associated cases and 10 cases transmitted sexually had been reported in the U.S., according to the article. In one patient the virus caused Guillain-Barrée syndrome, which can lead to paralysis.

Only half of the 157 pregnant women in the U.S. with the virus had symptoms such as rash and fever, but two-thirds of the 122 pregnant women in U.S. territories reported symptoms, FierceHealthcare reported.

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