Will Workers’ Comp Cover Essential Employees Infected with COVID-19?

Essential workers in the health care industry are among employees with the greatest potential to contract the coronavirus due to the nature of their work.

Whether Workers’ Compensation insurance in each state will step in and provide benefits for medical expenses and wage replacement while an employee is ill with the virus depends on each state and recent legislation that has either been passed or is pending to address COVID-19.

Typically, Workers’ Comp covers employees for “occupational diseases” that arise out of and in the course of employment. But it’s important to note that many state statutes exclude “ordinary diseases of life” (for example, the common cold or flu). Additionally, it may be difficult for employees to prove they contracted the coronavirus while at work. 

Some states, however, have taken action to provide coverage for the COVID-19 virus for essential workers. In May, California’s governor signed an executive order that creates a time-limited rebuttable presumption for accessing Workers’ Compensation benefits applicable to Californians who must work outside of their homes during the stay at home order, according to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Employees eligible will have the rebuttable presumption if they tested positive for COVID-19 or were diagnosed with COVID-19 and confirmed by a positive test within 14 days of performing a labor or service at a place of work after the stay at home order was issued on March 19, 2020. The presumption is in effective through July 5, 2020.

Extending “presumptive eligibility” to all essential workers could cost the Golden State billions annually, according to a recent analysis from the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, which gave a wide-ranging estimate between $2.2 billion and $33.6 billion. Employers and insurers have voiced concern that in turn will result in higher premiums at a time when businesses are already facing significant financial challenges.

Other states have also enacted legislation creating a presumption of coverage for various types of workers. Alaska, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin limit Workers Compensation coverage to first responders and health care workers. Illinois covers all essential workers and Wyoming covers all workers. In addition, there are many other states with proposed bills pending in their respective house committees. 

Manchester Specialty Programs provides Workers’ Compensation insurance among other critical coverages for the Home Health Care, Allied Health and Human and Social Services sectors. We will continue to monitor how states are addressing the issue of Workers’ Comp for essential workers, including for home health care employees. For more information about our insurance programs, please call us at 1-855-972-9399.

Source: NCCI