Home Healthcare Volunteers and Workers’ Compensation Programs

June 15, 2016

Workers’ Compensation insurance is designed to provide benefits to workers who are injured during the scope and course of their employment. Workers’ Compensation laws are enacted and administered by states. Each state’s program is unique, and the requirements for coverage, types of benefits, and amounts of benefits vary from one to another. Although state Workers’ Compensation programs  cover a majority of workers, there are certain exemptions from coverage under Workers’ Compensation programs, including employees of small businesses under a specified size and workers in hazardous occupations. Some states further exempt domestic service, agricultural employment, casual laborers, and state and local government employees. Some of these groups are provided coverage through other mechanisms, such as Disability or Accidental Medical insurance that is provided by an employer as a full or partial benefit, or negotiated through union agreements.

State laws also vary widely on the insurability of volunteers under Workers’ Compensation. Some states do not allow it, while others specify that certain types of volunteers must be covered and others may be covered at the option of the organization for which they volunteer. Even in the states where volunteers can be covered, there is no uniformity of what constitutes a volunteer. This area is of particular importance to the home healthcare industry, as volunteer work plays a critical role in this sector with volunteers serving as an incredible asset. Home healthcare agencies must understand how their state’s Workers’ Comp regulations apply to volunteers, with insurer policies carefully examined to determine whether a volunteer qualifies for coverage.

For example, when a volunteer is covered by the Workers’ Compensation statutes of a given state, the medical benefits provided by Workers’ Compensation will be the same as the medical benefits of a regular employee. However, the question that often comes up is how are indemnity benefits handled for a volunteer unable to resume his or her volunteer duties for the employer?  Different states handle this in different ways. Some states will require the insurer to pay the volunteer the state minimal indemnity amount per week, while in other states, the employer and/or insurer will try to calculate the value of the volunteer’s services to establish a value for disability payments. Other states provide the volunteer with no indemnity compensation, just medical benefits.

While adding volunteers to a Workers’ Compensation program may increase a home healthcare provider’s premium, it is prudent to have such coverage when available than risk a liability lawsuit against the company. If a state does not permit Workers’ Comp insurance to cover volunteer workers, a home healthcare firm may consider purchasing a Volunteer Accident Medical insurance policy designed specifically to pay the medical bills (or deductibles and co-pays if otherwise covered under another plan) if injured on the job in their capacity as volunteers. Another option to consider is having volunteers sign waivers and hold-harmless agreements so that they realize up front that the home healthcare firm is not providing coverage, and agree to assume the risks themselves by obtaining their own or utilizing existing medical coverage they may already have.

Manchester Specialty Programs provides Workers’ Compensation insurance to home healthcare firms throughout the country.  We can work with you and your local agent/broker to determine what insurance coverage is available for your volunteers, depending on state laws. To learn more about our programs, you or your local agent/broker can contact us at 855.972.9399.