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COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation: Are Essential Workers Entitled to It?

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Right up to June 2021, the U.S. has recorded more than 32.9 million and 588,800 COVID-19 infections and fatalities, respectively. As such, the federal government, through agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urges the general public to continue taking COVID-19 safety measures seriously. Unfortunately, essential workers and first responders are more exposed to the virus than the rest of the population. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), essential workers are employees that provide essential services including, among others, healthcare, law enforcement, transportation, and food. That said, this article talks about essential workers’ compensation insurance for COVID-19.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover COVID-19?

The simple answer is yes and no. In other words, it is more complicated than it seems. This is because workers’ compensation laws vary from one state to another. For instance, workers’ compensation insurance is optional for employers based in Texas, unlike the rest of the U.S. Typically, the workers’ compensation insurance policy is supposed to cover work-related illnesses and injuries, lost wages, and death benefits. This means that for the insurance company to pay your claim, your illness or injury must be directly related to your work. This raises the question of whether COVID-19 is a work-related illness or not.

Why Workers’ Comp May Cover COVID-19

Per the Insurance Information Institute (III), workers’ compensation insurance does not usually cover routine illnesses such as cold and flu. This is because it is difficult to determine whether such conditions emanate from the workplace or elsewhere. That said, it is prudent to say that COVID-19 workers’ comp coverage for essential workers will solely depend on the state laws. To give you an idea, some states treat lung and respiratory illnesses for firefighters and first responders as work-related, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

If these states can also consider COVID-19 to be a work-related disease for essential workers, workers’ comp insurance will most likely cover the costs. So far, about 17 states, including, among others, Minnesota, Utah, Illinois, and New Jersey have enacted legislation to include COVID-19 in the workers’ comp coverage for essential workers. However, working in a high COVID-19 risk area does not guarantee that you will receive essential workers’ compensation pay in case you get infected.

Emerging Issues

Considering it is difficult to determine where and how an essential worker contracted the virus, the COVID-19 workers’ comp coverage will entirely be based on presumption policies. Consequently, this has led to several issues, including:

  • Difficult claim adjusting process – When you file a claim, an insurance adjuster investigates the case to ascertain the cause of your illness or injury before the insurance company can approve your claim. When it comes to COVID-19, it will be difficult for employers and insurers to determine whether the infection was related to work or not.
  • Increased insurance costs – Approval of COVID-19 insurance claims based on presumption policies means that insurance companies will have to pay out a lot of money for settlement considering the many COVID-19 infections. This, in turn, increases the insurance costs.

Considering the controversies surrounding COVID-19 workers’ compensation for essential employees, ensure you consult your insurance company for clarification. If you don’t have it yet, be sure to purchase the right workers’ comp to protect your employees. At Hoffman Brown Company, we will provide you with the best business and personal insurance policies. To get started, contact us today!

COVID-19 Update:

The Coronavirus, officially COVID-19, has become a global health emergency. One of the measures Hoffman Brown Company has taken to keep our CLIENTS and Teammates safe was to design a complete virtual work environment. For the foreseeable future, our colleagues will be conducting business virtually to avoid any disruption in our ability to serve you. These measures are based on the CDC’s guidance and will evolve with the situation. Please know that we are fully functional, available and look forward to being of service.