How Covid Is impacting Workers’ Compensation
Post-Covid, we’ve entered a “new normal.” Venues have re-opened their doors, many people have returned to work in person, and most families and friends are socializing sans-mask again. However, that doesn’t mean that Covid is no longer making an impact. In our line of work, we see the impact Covid still has on people and workers’ compensation.
Today, we’re tackling this important topic. Keep reading to learn how COVID is impacting workers’ compensation—and what your options are if you become sick at work.
How Has Covid Impacted Workers?
To say that Covid had an effect on Americans is an understatement. The pandemic upended how people lived and worked.
When it came to the workforce, the impact was huge. In addition to the 1 million lives tragically lost, many people left the workforce for other reasons. More than 2 million Americans retired early. Others who worked in jobs deemed “non-essential” were laid off and struggled to find new jobs.
Still others were prevented from going to work because they had Covid—and not everyone was able to recover and return quickly. Long Covid—a form of Covid causing health problems spanning weeks, months, or longer after the initial infection—waylaid many people.
Long Covid & Workers’ Compensation
According to a recent study done by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, long Covid has prevented substantial numbers of people from going back to work. Others continue to need medical care still, long after returning to work.
The study found that, in the first two years of the pandemic, 71 percent of those with long Covid weren’t able to work for six months or longer. For 18 percent of long Covid patients, it was impossible to return to work for more than a year. Of all the long Covid patients, more than 75 percent were younger than 60—meaning they should have had at least another decade in the workforce.
The study classified a workers’ compensation case as long Covid if the Covid patient required medical treatment for 60 days or more, or lost 60 days or more of work.
The results of the study are likely conservative: since the insurer only looked at workers’ comp cases, the study doesn’t include employees who didn’t know they could file a claim, who were ineligible to file a claim, or who simply went back to work to “tough it out.” Because many people simply can’t afford not to work, it’s likely that there are many people in the workforce quietly suffering from long Covid symptoms.
This study is important, because it helps explain declining participation in the workforce and unfilled jobs. It shows that, even though deaths from Covid have thankfully decreased, the effects of Covid aren’t “over.”
Can I Get Workers’ Comp Benefits for COVID?
Rates of Covid have gone down dramatically since the height of the pandemic. However, the disease hasn’t gone away entirely.
Workers can still contract Covid. If that happens to you, will workers’ comp cover you? The answer to this question depends on whether or not Covid is considered an “occupational illness” for your job.
What Is an Occupational Illness?
“Occupational illnesses” are health conditions that are caused by a person’s work environment. For a disease to be considered an occupational illness, the workplace must put you at an increased risk of developing the illness. It’s not enough to just get sick at work, because lots of people develop conditions for reasons unrelated to their jobs—whether genetics, environment, or bad luck.
A few very common examples of occupational illnesses and conditions include carpal tunnel syndrome and mesothelioma. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition for office workers, whose frequent typing and similar hand movements result in compressed nerves at the wrist. Mesothelioma, a type of cancer, is common among people who work in construction, firefighting, power plants, and shipyards. These workers are at an increased risk of exposure to asbestos, a chemical that can cause mesothelioma.
Covid may be considered an occupational illness for you if your workplace puts you at increased risk of exposure. This includes professions like health care workers (doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.), paramedics, nursing home caregivers, and similar jobs.
These workers are at a higher risk of Covid exposure than someone who works in an office, factory, or outdoors.
If Covid is an occupational illness for your profession, that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed workers’ comp benefits. Under the Ohio workers’ compensation system, you still need to prove your Covid diagnosis is work-related. This can be difficult to do when it comes to infectious diseases. It’s especially tricky for workers with long Covid, a new disease that can have a variety of symptoms.
We’re Here to Help
If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work and want to file a workers’ compensation claim, call us today.
We’re here to help, every step of the way—answering your questions, determining if you have a claim, and doing everything in our power to help you succeed.