Workers’ compensation provides medical and monetary benefits for a percentage of lost wages to employees who become sick or injured on the job. The details and regulations vary widely between states; however, workers must typically prove their injury or illness occurred during the course of their employment. For certain illnesses, including COVID-19, this can be particularly challenging.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several states adopted changes to their regulations to make it easier for certain workers who were required to work outside of their homes and contracted COVID-19 to file a workers’ compensation claim. Due to its widespread transmission, it was difficult for employees to prove an infection was acquired on the job. As a result, states adopted rebuttable presumptions, which shifted the burden to the employers to prove that the employee did not contract COVID-19 in the workplace. A total of 36 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico implemented or considered such changes. Some offer presumptions to a select group of workers, such as frontline healthcare workers and first responders, while others included broader groups required to work outside of the home.
Figures show that workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19 have not yet put a significant strain on the industry although experts warn that this may change with the unknown long-term effects of the disease and the classification of Long COVID as a disability.
Our team had the opportunity to speak with Beth Burry-Jackson, a senior vice president of case management for Sedgwick, about her experience with Long COVID and workers’ compensation. Due to the evolving nature of Long COVID, it presents many challenges around workers’ compensation claims. Highlights from the discussion are shared below.
In addition to the issues surfacing around Long COVID and workers’ compensation, experts are concerned about the large and unprecedented strain on the healthcare system due to the wide range of symptoms and potential prolonged duration of treatment. It is still early in our understanding of Long COVID and there remains much to learn about the condition itself as well as its effect on the healthcare system, workforce, and workers’ compensation.
More of Ms. Burry-Jackson’s insights on Long COVID and workers’ compensation have been featured in Business Insurance (see here and here).
We closed the conversation with Ms. Burry-Jackson sharing information about organizations where individuals can learn more about the topic:
The Long COVID Initiative team thanks Beth Burry-Jackson for her work on Long COVID and workers’ compensation and for sharing her expertise with us.