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2020 - Workers Compensation and Covid-19; the health issues connected to infections from the workplace



VenueOnline Event, USA - United States USA - United States

KeywordsWorkers Compensation benefits; Fraudulent claims


Topics/Call fo Papers

The COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) is the latest in a series of infectious diseases that have emerged over the last 20 years. Since 2003, the world has seen the emergence of SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika viruses. While the overall impact of each disease has been well documented, you would be hard pressed to find meaningful information on how or even if the workers compensation (WC) system was affected. However, in the two months since the first US case of coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state, there has already been an impact to the WC environment and there may be more to come. So, what is the potential implications of coronavirus for WC? This webinar will focus on two important aspects: compensability and economic impact.
Is coronavirus compensable under WC? The answer to that question is “maybe.” While WC laws provide compensation for “occupational diseases” that arise out of and in the course of employment, many state statutes exclude “ordinary diseases of life” (e.g., the common cold or flu). There are occupational groups that arguably would have a higher probability for exposure such as healthcare workers. However, even in those cases, there may be uncertainty as to whether the disease is compensable. Would time away from work during recovery be considered “temporary disability” or is it just normal “sick time”? While these questions linger, several states have taken steps to address compensability for WC.
It remains to be seen if other states will take the same measures relative to WC. However, for general health insurance, at least 10 states have issued mandates for coverage of coronavirus. The mandates vary by state, but they include coverage for testing and visits to emergency rooms or urgent care facilities either in-network or out-of-network without deductibles or copays. These measures, if expanded to more states, could have the impact of limiting claim activity in the WC market in those cases where only testing or quarantine are necessary.
With a focus on worker safety, employers have begun to implement a number of policies related to coronavirus. These include limiting nonessential travel, maximizing telecommuting options, and being flexible on sick leave policies to encourage employees to stay home when they are ill. Some companies have also cancelled large in-person industry conferences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its own guidelines related to travel with specific recommendations for the cruise industry.
Workers compensation generally covers diseases that employees’ contract because of their work—or in legal jargon, occupational diseases “arising out of and in the course of employment.” Although common infectious diseases like the flu aren’t considered occupational illnesses, COVID-19 might be treated differently in some cases.
Specific eligibility requirements for occupational diseases vary from state to state, but you typically need to demonstrate that:
the particular nature of your job caused your illness or put you at a higher risk of exposure to the virus than the general public, and
you contracted the illness as a result of a specific exposure that happened while you were doing your job.
When an infectious disease becomes widespread in the community, as in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be particularly difficult to meet both of those requirements.
Clearly, first responders and healthcare workers face a particular danger of being exposed to COVID-19, especially in the midst of a pandemic and shortages of proper protective equipment. But workers in other occupations—like high-volume retail or airport screeners—might also be able to show that the nature of their work put them at higher risk than the general population.
How Workers Compensation benefits are determined.
Eligibility standards for Workers Compensation benefits.
What are the states doing/saying about eligibility.
How to determine if your employees may be eligible.
How to protect yourself from fraudulent claims.
Any industry professional will benefit but those in hospitality, retail, health care and transportation will particularly benefit.
Dr. Chartier is the Principal of HRinfo4u, a human resource consulting firm, and a well-known educator and speaker. As a consultant, he works with organizations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their human resource function. He has worked extensively in designing, developing, and implementing human resource program, procedures, and systems for smaller and mid-size firms up and down the Hudson Valley.
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Last modified: 2020-10-02 17:55:13