The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) has conducted a study into the workers’ compensation COVID-related policies of six states to determine how beneficial the “COVID presumption” rule really is. According to their research – which used data from Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Alaska – up to just 4% of the workforce can benefit from rebuttable presumption rules created in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The rebuttable presumption rule asserts that an essential worker can file for workers’ compensation benefits if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 under the presumption that they contracted the virus while at work. It places the burden on insurance companies to prove that virus exposure happened elsewhere.
The “essential” workforce limitation is what has made the presumption’s use so limited as well. The study found that only 4% of Kentucky’s active workforce were counted as essential under that state’s order. In Missouri, the percentage plummeted down to under 1%. Although the sample size of states is small, it is estimated that most states will not go too far above the 4% line. The WRCI has noted that it intends to keep studying other states in the future, though.
Good News for States with Broader Definitions
WRCI researchers noted that Kentucky was able to bump its “presumption rule” coverage up to 4% by creating a broader definition of who is an “essential worker.” Typically, police officers, firefighters, and medical professionals are some of the few occupations deemed to be essential in the pandemic. But, by adding grocery clerks, childcare service providers, and a handful of other careers into the definition of an essential worker, Kentucky raised the rule’s coverage and provided a better chance at securing workers’ compensation benefits to that many more people.
In states with even broader definitions than Kentucky, it can be assumed that the percentage of workers who can benefit from the COVID presumption will rise above 4%. California, for example, has been applauded by workers and labor groups for considering more types of employees as essential. Arguments were even heard to consider any employee working in a location that sells food and household necessities as an essential worker, such as a convenience store clerk.
Private insurance companies and state-level workers’ compensation administrations first assumed that a wider definition of an essential worker would create a spike in COVID-related workers’ compensation claims that would drive up insurance premiums. At this time, though, the increase seems to have been offset by a reduction in the total number of workers’ compensation claims filed overall.
For example, workers’ comp claims filed in California per year, up until the end of November:
- 2019: 588,506
- 2020: 484,252
The approximate 20% drop is not necessarily one to celebrate, though. There could very well be fewer workers’ compensation claims filed because there are fewer people in the state’s active workforce as the pandemic ravages the economy. However, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute is hopeful that the drop in filings is mainly a reflection of the new work-from-home standard, which exposures such employees to dramatically fewer risks than in a shared, open, or public workspace.
To get more information about how the COVID presumption is affecting workers’ compensation policies and workers, you can click here for a full article from Claims Journal. To learn how to file a workers’ comp claim in Southern California, call (818) 946-0608 and connect with the Law Offices of Wax & Wax. We offer our legal services from Santa Clarita to Glendale and beyond. Initial consultations are always free.