Can one collect workers’ compensation for COVID-19?

Across the country, businesses are enacting policies to slow the spread of coronavirus. These include limiting travel, canceling large work events and enabling employees to work remotely. These efforts should help curb the spread of the virus, but who protects workers unaffected by these changes?

Washington State recently changed its workers’ compensation policies to cover healthcare workers and first responders sent into quarantine following exposure to the coronavirus. This is the first time a state has altered its legislation to cover quarantined workers, but will it be the last?

State mandates to combat coronavirus

Washington State’s new directive will require workers’ compensation insurance to pay for testing, treatments and provide indemnity payments for those out of work due to coronavirus. As of this writing, no other states have followed Washington’s example. However, 10 states have issued alternative mandates that target healthcare coverage instead of workers’ compensation. These policies mandate that health insurance cover tests and visits to emergency rooms, regardless of network coverage and without co-pays or deductibles. It is likely that more states will follow with similar legislation, but this does little for the 28 million adults without insurance.

An imminent change

Every American has already felt the impact of coronavirus in some aspect of their lives. Large industry conferences like Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) are cancelled, and even the National Basketball Association (NBA) has suspended its season. The travel industry has endured huge hits, particularly airlines, as state governments issue Stay at Home orders. Still, many manufacturing and shipping companies who rely on American manual labor are practicing “business as usual” for as long as possible. This creates a very tenuous situation for American blue-collar workers, as their risk of exposure only increases.

It is likely only a matter of time before a workers’ compensation claim gets filed due to COVID-19. The outcome of that claim could reframe the conversation on American health coverage and workers’ compensation. Right now, American families must be patient as the efforts to curb the pandemic play out.