By JOE BOREN, former chairman and CEO of AIG Environmental,
who recently joined with Ironshore, the Bermuda-based insurer, to head up its environmental facility, Ironshore Environmental
Hospitals and healthcare facilities, like nursing homes, are especially susceptible to MRSA infections. And now it's also being discovered at other locations like health clubs. In the past, it typically infected older people with reduced immune protection but it has become more common among the general population. This kind of "pollution" unfortunately, has the potential to become a new version of the mold issue that was in the news a few years ago.
Safety and prevention are the key factors. Right now, most pollution insurance policies don't cover MRSA. Policies at hospitals and nursing homes specifically exclude coverage of the infection. The number of MRSA-related legal actions is also increasing significantly. For example, the families of three young children, all victims of hospital born infections, died and lawsuits were filed against the hospitals.
The difficulty, from an insurance point of view, is how to underwrite the risk. There may be some precedent in underwriting standards for mold. With mold, we look at how an institution keeps water and moisture out of its property. Track the source of the water and there's a good chance you will find the cause of the mold. That helps us figure out the best ways to underwrite mold risk.
With MRSA, we need to find that key underwriting link.
What is the best way to keep a facility hygienic? How do we measure that? What kind of hygienic procedures are in place and which ones are the most effective? How, with these kinds of institutions, do you make sure that the needed measures are implemented 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
Even more basic are questions that are difficult to answer: How, exactly, is the infectious bacteria transmitted? This risk deserves priority both to protect the institutions, the patients and the hospital staff and to make it possible from an insurance perspective to protect the financial health of the institution. It's a huge challenge for both public health officials and the insurance industry.
April 15, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications