What about Ebola's impact on insurers?

Along with all the concerns regarding the ongoing Ebola epidemic, here's one many people probably haven't considered: What about health care and life insurance costs if the disease were to become widespread in the U.S.?

Some estimates put the costs of treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the uninsured Liberian national who was hospitalized in Dallas for Ebola and who died there earlier this month, around $1,000 an hour, or close to $500,000 overall.

On Monday, the New York-based Insurance Information Institute (III) published a comprehensive fact sheet on its website about the potential ramifications the spread of Ebola might have for the insurance industry.

The III takes a very clinical approach to the subject. It notes that few residents in the three West African nations at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak -- Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone -- have any sort of life or health insurance, so any current economic impact to the global insurance industry has so far been minimal.

But even in a worse-case scenario, or what the III describes as "the unlikely event that the Ebola virus spreads to infect tens of thousands of adults in the United States," the Institute says insurers should be able to financially weather the crisis.

That confidence is based on the fact that around one-third of adults in the U.S. have life insurance through their employers, with the typical coverage equaling one year's income. Another third of U.S. adults have individual life insurance, with the death claims on those policies averaging around $200,000.

"In a typical year life insurers pay about two million death claims," the III notes, "so another 100,000 would be only five percent more than typical."

When it comes to health care costs, however, the Institute says treating Ebola patients would end up at the high end of health insurance claims. So, the overall costs for health insurers would depend on the size of the outbreak.

"Many people would need to be tested to see whether they have contracted the virus, and the cost of isolation of those affected could be substantial," it says. And in the case of individuals with no health insurance, "treatment costs will likely be borne outside the private health insurance system."

In the event of a major Ebola outbreak, the industry would also have to grapple with other insurance-related considerations, including issues such as workers compensation, general liability and medical malpractice.

But for now, according to the III, "the number of Ebola cases should be small, thereby limiting the number and likelihood of tort actions that can impact various liability coverages."