Feb 15, 2021 - Economy

Insurers are rejecting many workers' compensation claims related to COVID-19

Illustration of a street sign featuring a skulls and bones with a virus icon in place of the skull

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many people who have filed workers' compensation claims following COVID-19 infections are being denied, a Wall Street Journal analysis of state data shows.

Why it matters: Rejected claims from office employees, front-line workers, and airline staff suggest that it's hard to prove where an infection occurred and that returning to the workplace prior to widespread vaccination could present more danger — and less of a safety net — than previously thought.

What they're saying: Chicago attorney Jose Rivero told the Journal that the 30 workers' compensation claims he has made for clients, including 10 cases in which an employee died, have all been denied.

  • Heather Kaplan, a lawyer from New York’s Long Island, said that her roughly 20 claims related to the coronavirus had been denied — including claims from medical workers.
  • Mack Babcock, the attorney for a Colorado meatpacker employee who died after contracting the coronavirus, said that the handful of claims pursued by his firm had all been denied by insurers or companies.

There is currently no comprehensive national data set available on how many coronavirus-related claims have been filed, the WSJ adds. States like Texas, California Florida have released their data.

  • In Texas, insurers denied 45% of more than 32,000 coronavirus-related claims made through Dec. 6, after those workers had tested positive. There is no presumption of eligibility for the virus in the state.
  • In California, 26% of 93,470 coronavirus claims were denied as of the end of December.
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