One of the things that’s interesting about Ebola is that it’s not much of a major medical insurance story, at this point.

Just a few people have incurred medical expenses in the United States for actual treatment of Ebola. A few more have received acute medical care for conditions that could have been Ebola but turned out to be malaria, influenza or some bad bug to be named later.

The big, huge costs the affected people are incurring are for expenses that might properly fall in categories of expenses that might possibly be paid by short-term disability (STD) policies, short-term care insurance policies or even some rich long-term care insurance (LTCI) policies that provide first-day coverage.

What people linked to Ebola patients face is the cost of going through an informal isolation period, or a formal quarantine period, with a little telemedicine and a little home health supervision thrown in. Many of these people face a loss of the ability to earn their income through the usual means. They also may face the inconvenience and increased expense involved with getting home deliveries of the essentials of life, such as food.

The few current commercial insurance policies available on the Web that mention quarantine benefits seem to be STD policies.

Maybe a year or two from now would be a good time for insurers, regulators and others to get together and think who can handle what.

Paying benefits for a few hundred people kept in isolation because of fears of Ebola might be something insurers should be able to handle — and profit from handling. The next few years might be a great time for any insurer brave enough to provide insurance against quarantine risk and sell policies with quarantine benefits.

Insuring the population of Dallas against the kind of three-day lockdown Sierra Leone used to fight the Ebola outbreak there does not seem to be the sort of thing private insurers can handle. 

How do we help private insurers provide as much outbreak protection as is feasible while arranging for a clean handoff from the private insurers to epidemic relief agencies?

See also: III: Bad Flu Could Cost Life Insurers $133 Billion