Employees covered by comp for COVID-19 varies by state

The number of employees who may be covered by the various state laws and executive orders providing some level of compensability for workers who acquire COVID-19 on the job varies substantially based on workforce and the nature of the order, researchers from the Workers Compensation Research Institute found in a study released Tuesday.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based WCRI used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to predict the number of workers who may be covered by the various laws and orders to help certain classes of workers to have easier access to workers compensation if they acquire the virus. In the evaluation of Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, researchers estimated the number of workers that could be covered by the COVID-19 law or order and assigned an exposure risk factor to each industry or occupation.

Alaska passed the only law to conclusively presume that firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers and health care providers who are exposed to an individual with coronavirus and are diagnosed with the virus within that exposure window acquired the virus on the job. The law, which took effect in April, likely covers 29,500 workers total, according to WCRI estimates, with about 16,000 of those in health care.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson passed an executive order modifying the state’s statutes to allow for the compensability of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. The order does not presume compensability, however, and WCRI predicts that about 61,000 health care workers could be covered, but that the number could he halved when adjusted for risk exposure.

In Indiana, the state’s Workers Compensation Board in April urged employers of first responders and health care workers who were susceptible to contracting COVID-19 because of their job duties to presume that workers who acquired the virus were covered if directed to quarantine at the behest of the employer. The order, however, is not a presumption. WCRI predicts that as many as 413,000 workers could be covered by that directive, with about 206,000 of them working in health care.

Kentucky, which passed the first COVID-19 executive order relating to compensability in April, has required employers whose workers were removed from work on the directive of a physician for occupational exposure to pay temporary total disability to those employees. Workers covered under the Kentucky order include health care workers, first responders, grocery and postal workers, as well as community-based and childcare workers permitted to operate during the pandemic. WCRI predicts that about 293,000 workers could be covered by that order.

In Missouri, the state passed an emergency rule in April creating a presumption for first responders if they were required to quarantine by their employer, displayed symptoms and were diagnosed with COVID-19. Approximately 44,000 workers were predicted to be covered by that presumption.

WCRI said it intends to provide predictions of workers covered by these executive orders and laws in other states.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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