Zika Virus in Texas: New Consequences Emerge
Another week, another barrage of media coverage on the Zika virus – but today, we want to present another side of the story that some people may not have considered: the economic impact of Zika here in the United States, specifically when it comes to healthcare.
As you may be aware, the Zika virus starts with symptoms that are not unlike some other commonplace illnesses: fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye). But if a woman affected by Zika virus is pregnant or becomes pregnant, the virus can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, a serious defect of the brain. The effects on the patient’s child include brain damage, unusually small head size and other irreversible developmental consequences.
For the adults transmitting it, the Zika virus has short-term effects – but for any children conceived during the transmission, the damage is permanent.
Can the Zika Virus in Texas Raise Healthcare Costs?
Now, there have sadly been three cases of Zika virus confirmed in Texas. This is not media hype: Officials have confirmed that the third case of the Zika virus was confirmed in Dallas County on February 10. The first was reported on February 2, when Dallas County Health and Human Services reported the first case of sexual transmission of Zika in the county (Zika is an insect-borne disease, but may be sexually transmitted as well).
So today, the Zika virus is not just a South American problem; it is a global problem that American employers have to be prepared to address in their corporate health plans. Make no mistake, it will affect American health plans. As was the case when West Nile virus became a concern in parts of the U.S., health insurers in areas where the disease is present may raise their rates to address the emergency. It’s just one more thing for employers to think about as they examine their healthcare costs and make decisions about the way they will cover employees.
If you are in an area affected by the Zika virus (Texas or otherwise), it’s time to examine how that may affect your corporate healthcare costs. GM&A is a firm dedicated to providing knowledgeable, valuable healthcare consultation to employers like you. Contact us to see how we can help.