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Reports: Workers Sickened With COVID-19 Fight for Comp Benefits

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | 862 | 0 | 93 min read

The Associated Press and Kaiser Health News, in separate articles published Monday, reported that some frontline workers who contract COVID-19 will face a fight to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The Associated Press reported that “essential workers who get the coronavirus on the job have no guarantee in most states they’ll qualify for workers’ compensation to cover lost wages and medical care.”

Kaiser Health News, meanwhile, said that in the face of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, sick workers and families of those who die “face another daunting burden: fighting for benefits from workers’ compensation systems that, in some states, are stacked against them.”

Kaiser reports that data from Massachusetts includes 3,482 first reports of injury for workers with COVID-19, including 2,915 involving health care workers. Work comp carriers denied 216 of the claims filed by the health care workers, according to the report.

In Florida, comp carriers denied 521 of 1,740 COVID-19 claims filed by health care workers, according to Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser reported on individual cases, such as James Anderson, 51, who died from COVID-19. His family claims he was exposed to the new coronavirus working at St. Mary Medical Center, where his job involved changing air filters in rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients. The hospital denied his claim.

The Associated Press reported that Connecticut nurse Dori Harrington’s claim for COVID-19 was denied because the disease was not distinct to her job. The AP said Harrington ultimately “won her claim with union help.”

While more than a dozen states have enacted presumptions that require employers to prove specified workers didn’t contract COVID-19 through work, the AP reports diseases have always been tricky for the work comp industry. A pandemic like COVID-19 is even more complicated.

"You don't know per se where you inhaled that breath whereby you became infected," said Bill Smith, president of the Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group, or WILG, to the Associated Press.

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