LONG-COVID workers’ compensation cases are making life complicated for insurers as the workers can continue requiring treatment and doctors’ visits possibly indefinitely.
In California, insurers are required to extend workers’ compensation benefits to anyone who is deemed to have contracted COVID-19 at work.
Once a claim is accepted as a compensable workplace condition, the insurer can be on the hook for medical costs long after initial medical treatment.
And because COVID-19 is a new disease, insurers can’t accurately predict how long these claims may last. With long COVID, the tail of the claims could be years.
In some cases, long COVID has led to disabilities and other impairments. If a condition is related to the original claim, workers’ comp carriers are required to cover continuing treatment and medication costs.
Typical workers’ compensation claims do not have these types of long-term symptoms.
Because symptoms can vary from person to person and for varying lengths of time, workers’ compensation claims payers are wrestling with how much they need to set aside for long-COVID claims, which they are required to do under law for all claims.
If they underestimate, they’ll need to add more funds to the reserves for the claims.
It should be noted that these lengthy cases are relatively rare.
The vast majority of COVID-19 workers’ comp cases are very small, particularly when an employee didn’t need hospitalization and missed some time from work quarantining and recovering.
One report in the U.K. said various studies’ estimates of the percentage of patients who develop long COVID range from 2.3% to 37% of COVID-19 patients.
The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California estimates that overall COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims in the state will ultimately cost insurers $1.2 billion.
The good news for employers in California is that those claims do not count against their experience rating, meaning COVID-19 claims won’t affect their rates. But that could change later this year.
At the same time, however, the cost of COVID-19 can carry over beyond workers’ compensation as absences create production difficulties.
Some people who contract COVID-19, even those who have mild or no systems, can develop a number of long-term conditions well after the virus has cleared the system and they are no longer testing positive. Long COVID can last weeks or months.
MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS
• Shortness of breath
• Persistent cough
• Heart palpitations • Chest tightness or pain
• Brain fog
• Changes in senses of smell and taste
• Difficulty sleeping • Anxiety and/or depression
• Joint pain
• Hair loss
• Allergic rashes
• Muscle pain