Legislators in California have been working to improve workers’ compensation benefits for healthcare workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and likely encountered the coronavirus through their work. However, a recent rejection from the California Senate has largely derailed any hope of progress in the near future.
The California Senate shut down a bill that would have permanently allowed healthcare workers in the state to file for workers’ comp after contracting the coronavirus with the assumption being that their job caused their exposure to the deadly virus. Such a law already exists, but it expires in 2023. The recently rejected bill sought to indefinitely extend that expiration date.
Had the bill been successful, it would have also added more health conditions suffered by healthcare workers to the list of those “presumed” to be caused by their work, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), muscle injuries like back strain, and specific forms of cancer and respiratory illnesses. When there is a presumption that a health condition is more than likely caused by an employee’s job, workers’ comp insurance companies have to prove that the injury or illness was not work-related. Contrarily, in some situations, a claimant might have to prove that their injury or illness was work-related if it is not under any presumption and the insurance company challenges their claim.
The reason behind the bill’s rejection was that expanding the presumption so broadly and indefinitely would become too costly for businesses. It could be assumed that more healthcare workers would file workers’ comp claims if they knew there was a better chance at the claim’s success. Insurance companies would therefore have to pay more claims. Theoretically, the same insurance companies would then increase the monthly premiums on policyholders. The argument has long been used to quash attempts to expand workers’ compensation benefits, with opposing parties saying that it unfairly ignores the fact that insurance companies are not being forced to raise premiums, but only do so to maintain profit margins.
With the bill rejected by the California Senate, for the time being, it will remain difficult for healthcare workers to get adequate workers’ comp benefits after contracting the coronavirus due to their occupation. Even though a presumption already exists, many of such workers’ comp claims are denied, delayed, or depreciated. By some estimates, at least 50% of such claims are challenged by insurers during initial filing steps.
To learn more about the California Senate’s decision to reject the healthcare workers’ comp COVID bill, you can click here to read a full article from The North Bay Business Journal. If you’re a healthcare worker in Orange County, Newport Beach, Corona, or Bakersfield, and you need legal help managing your workers’ comp claim, come to Alvandi Law Group, P.C. Our attorneys are well-versed in all sorts of workers’ compensation claims, including those related to COVID-19 diagnoses. Contact us online to request an initial consultation and someone from our team will reach out to you as soon as possible.