Needle-stick coverage for medical
and nursing students
Risk of accidental needle stick is a hazard of being a medical
student or a nursing student. The cost of treatment is a covered expense under major
medical policies except in a few special situations.
by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT, 2/16/2012, revised
A first-time conversation about needle stick coverage for medical
students came up this week at Freedom Benefits that included comments
from several insurance companies and medical schools. This article is
meant to summarize that discussion.
Medical students and nursing students must learn to give injections to
patients. In the course of instruction and practice while leering this
skill thee is a risk that they may accidently stick themselves. When
this happens there are certain precautionary medical treatment
procedures that are routinely taken. Medical schools insist upon
adherence to these treatment procedures for the protection of their
students. Some schools even require that the student show proof of
insurance that covers the risk of needle stick.
All U.S. major medical insurance policies, to our knowledge, cover
accidental needle stick as an ordinary medical expense. This includes
the lower cost plans available to individuals offered by
Insurance and recommended by Freedom Benefits for those
who qualify. Medical and
nursing students should be aware of the following special considerations
and possible exceptions:
There is no specific mention of needle stick injury in the coverage or
exclusion language of a major medical insurance policy. An accidental
needle stick injury would be presumed to be covered as any other unnamed
accidental injury unless any of the special situations listed below
Injuries incurred "on the job" are covered by worker's compensation
insurance. If the student is also an employee of the medical school or
medical facility, then worker's compensation insurance and not major
medical insurance would cover the cost of treatment. In the unlikely
event that the student were an employee of the medical school and the
school failed to carry legally required worker's compensation insurance
there is a possibility that both the major medical carrier and the
worker's compensation carrier could deny responsibility for the expense.
We've never heard of this actually happening but it is mentioned here as
If the student is not also an employee of the medical school or medical
facility then worker's compensation insurance does not apply and the
coverage is provided by the student's major medical insurance.
Treatment for a needle stick injury is subject to the usual policy
deductible, co-insurance and co-pays unless a supplemental (optional)
accident coverage is included with the policy. (See the last bullet
Needle stick injuries incurred during the illegal use of drugs or
syringes may not be covered by insurance. We presume that insurance
plans would consider a needle stick injury to be separate issue and not
included in a benefit provision that may provide coverage for treatment
of drug addiction or drug abuse.
If the needle-stick injury treatment protocol calls for blood testing or
treatment of another person (for example the patient being treated whose
blood may have contaminated the syringe before the needle prick
accident) then this treatment is not covered by the student's insurance
unless otherwise required by state law.
- Supplemental accident insurance is available to cover the risk of needle stick injuries. Generally this
type of insurance have a lower policy deductible than a major medical
insurance policy and do not require co-insurance or co-payments so this
reduces the financial risk to the student. Supplemental accident
insurance may be available as a rider on a major medical policy or as a
separate supplemental policy. See "Smart
Accident Insurance" (Markel Insurance Company) or "Value 24
Hour Accident Insurance" (Federal Insurance Company, does require a
deductible) as examples of low cost supplemental insurance that
may be available for this purpose.
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