Significant state variation in COVID-19 comp claims: WCRI

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers compensation claims varied substantially by state in the first half of 2020, with claims figures significantly affected by outbreak severity and whether a coronavirus presumption order or law was in place, according to a study released Thursday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based WCRI researchers said there was “tremendous variation in how the pandemic impacted different industries” due to lockdowns, the economic slowdown and the uptake of remote work.

In its study of the effects of the pandemic on workers compensation claims in 27 states, WCRI found that more than 80% of COVID-19 workers comp claims reported in the first two quarters of 2020 were made by service industry workers, with 65% coming from workers considered to be working in high-risk services, such as nursing homes, and 21% coming from workers in low-risk services.

The number of coronavirus comp claims varied significantly by state in the first half of 2020, with the states of Kansas and South Carolina reporting that less than 1% of their comp claims were related to coronavirus in the second quarter of 2020, while Massachusetts reported that 42% of its total comp claims were related to COVID-19 during that quarter.

In all states, non-COVID-19 workers compensation claims declined in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. States reporting decreases in the first quarter ranged from a 2% decline in Arkansas to a 20% reduction in Connecticut. According to WCRI, most states reported non-coronavirus claims drops of at least 30% in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same time in 2019, with Massachusetts reporting a decline of 50% in Massachusetts.

By industry, the largest drop of non-COVID-19 workers compensation claims came from clerical and professional employees, which reported a 57% reduction in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same quarter in 2019, with the smallest decrease — 25% — reported by the construction industry during that time frame.

The health care industries in all but one state also saw declines in non-coronavirus comp claims during the first half of 2020, with Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania reporting 30% drops in non-COVID-19 comp claims. However, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin saw declines of less than 5% during that same period, and Delaware reported a 4% increase in non-COVID-19 claims in health care workers.

The WCRI report included the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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