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Tue Sep 8, 2020, 10:08 PM

'Employers & Insurance Companies Are Trying To Deny Covid-19 Workers' Compensation Claims'

Employers and insurance companies are trying to deny COVID-19 workers' compensation claims. By Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos Staff, Sept. 08, 2020.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, and spread relatively unimpeded for the first few weeks, thousands of workers have contracted the virus. This, of course, has resulted in thousands of workers’ compensation claims. However, like every other infrastructural weakness in our country, the U.S. of A’s gutted workers’ compensation programs are also being exposed by the pandemic. The Intercept reports that numerous COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims have been held up by employers and insurance companies trying to say that employees, in direct contact with populations of Americans, didn’t contract the virus at work.

Before you wonder whether or not the employers or insurance companies have a leg to stand on, consider that people like Virginia Ligi, who works as a corrections officer in Hartford, CT, spent three weeks intensely sick with COVID-19 and is still waiting for any information on whether or not she will or will not have to fight for benefits. She became sick during a 16-hour shift in April. For years, big employers like Walmart have lobbied to cut back workers’ compensation, maximizing their profits while pushing all the risks onto their workforce. Employees are routinely denied their workers’ comp claims and either realize or don’t that they can fight to get these benefits. It then becomes a matter of time and resources, something that employers usually have a lot more of than their employees.

COVID-19 exposes one of the great loopholes in workers’ compensation claims: viruses can be caught outside of work. The Intercept gives the example of conditions like black lung disease that are really only caught by coal miners, but corporations have been able to successfully cast doubt on what can and cannot be covered. Working in a hospital and catching the flu is not something covered by workers’ compensation benefits. And while some provisions have been put forth to make sure COVID-19-work-related infections are covered by workers’ compensation, the reality of this is as convoluted as you might imagine.

Kaiser Health News reported on the tragic case of 51-year-old James Anderson, a married father of two small children, who contracted and died of COVID-19 in April. His job was to replace air filters in COVID patients’ rooms at a hospital in suburban Pennsylvania. While his family mourned and tried to figure out what to do next, they were denied his workers’ compensation death benefits by St. Mary Medical Center—an allegation they deny, but are still being sued for. Anderson worked at St. Mary’s Medical Center for 23 years.

And all of this doesn’t take into account that there is ample evidence that for some people COVID-19 is not something you get over after a few days or weeks. COVID-19’s long-term health ramifications are just beginning to be seen...


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