Yesterday’s WorkCompCentral featured an interview with an attorney discussing whether or not COVID-19 is a covered condition under North Carolina’s work comp regs.
Couldn’t figure out why the piece bothered me so much until I woke up this morning, where it had crystallized in my sleep-befogged brain.
The article was so BC (Before COVID-19). The world has fundamentally, dramatically, and permanently changed, and now is not the time to engage in academic and frankly dangerous discussion over what constitutes “occupational exposure to Novel Coronavirus.”
- not get tested because they can’t afford it;
- won’t stay home because they can’t afford to;
- will therefore expose others to the virus, infecting more of us;
- and won’t get treated, infecting even more people.
This is not the time to debate arcane points of law and precedent. This is the time for insurers, regulators, and employers to Do The Right Thing – which means treating COVID-19 infections as covered by workers’ comp for healthcare workers, first responders, hospitality staff, airline employees, and others who may have contracted the disease thru contact on the job.
Some insurers are saying they will investigate each case to determine whether a particular workers’ coronavirus/COVID-19 will be covered. Yeah, that was the right policy – before COVID-19 came along and may kill millions of Americans.
Today, it’s just nuts. Not only is it impossible, it’s irresponsible. The confirmed infection rate is growing logarithmically; unless these insurers hire a gazillion investigators they won’t finish these “investigations” for decades. Meanwhile, those undiagnosed, untreated workers will infect others, and more people will die.
Some states – California, Michigan, Pennsylvania among them – have moved quickly to address the issue albeit not always comprehensively. Other states must clearly and immediately ensure COVID-19 is a covered condition for broad categories of workers and jobs
Yes, following the law is important. Precedent is important. Principled debates are important. Advocating for your client is important.
Or rather, was important.
Now, what is overwhelmingly more important is stopping the pandemic – and workers’ comp must do its part.
What does this mean for you?
Do NOT quibble, cite arcane legal theories or case law, hide behind legal opinions, or waste time discussing the legal niceties and complexities.
Just accept the claim and get the patient treated. You can afford it; insurers are flush with cash, have billions in surplus/excess reserves, and the vast majority of infected workers will recover at home at minimal cost.
And when this is over, you will know you did the right thing.