The last question asked in our question-filled Post of 13 May was the same as the first question asked, namely: Who's the guy at the end of the line left holding the bill for COVID-19 workers' compensation claim costs?
Right now, as we have written here, each state is addressing this in its own way; fifty different plans for one national crisis.Thus far, workers' compensation is the pot out of which, in one way or another, claims are addressed. Employers do not like this.
Employers of essential workers haven't wanted to scream too loudly about being the last in line guy, what with so many of their workers falling ill, even dying, every day. That kind of crass insensitivity would be bad for business. But inwardly, they have to be nervous about getting stuck with the check, the cost of which, as we have documented here, could be enormous.
Employers have already taken a high hard one to the side of the head with the complete and utter devastation COVID-19 has done to their economic well being, and the requirement to pay the workers' compensation claims which are going to avalanche over the top of them is something with which they strongly disagree. For what it's worth, I think they have a point.
Back at the state capitals, I would venture, governors don't really care where the money comes from, just as long as it's not coming out of their state treasuries.
So, if the states don't pay and if insurers don't pay and if employers don't pay, who is left?
Brothers and sisters, the federal government is left, which is another way of saying we are left. We will all share the risk and share the costs. If you cannot bring yourself to believe that, you haven't been paying attention.
…provides compensation to individuals (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who were present at the World Trade Center or the surrounding New York City exposure zone; the Pentagon crash site; and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash site, at some point between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, and who have since been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness. The VCF is not limited to first responders. Compensation is also available to those who worked or volunteered in construction, clean-up, and debris removal; as well as people who lived, worked, or went to school in the exposure zone.
The wheels are already in motion. Last week, a bipartisan group in the House unveiled the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, a plan to compensate essential workers who fall sick or die from COVID-19. The Act is modeled on the September 11th Victim Compensation Act.
Senate democrats are also proposing legislation. Like everything else in D.C. these days, the road from here to eventual victim compensation will be tortuous, but I cannot see any other way of paying for this national catastrophe other than with a national program. Can you?
THE MODERNA RESULTS
For a number of years, I chaired the Board of a BIOTECH pre-clinical Contract Research Organization (CRO). We took compounds, whose makers hoped would become the next blockbuster drugs, and tested them in mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs and non-human primates (that's right, monkeys). In the biotech business, everyone knows everyone else, and we certainly knew a lot of scientists trying to develop vaccines.
This week, the Boston pharmaceutical company Moderna reported a vaccine it was developing for COVID-19 produced antibodies in humans. In vaccine development, this is the beginning of a Phase One trial, and its purpose is to confirm the vaccine is not toxic. Moderna's Phase One trial is composed of 45 participants, eight of whom Moderna says produced the antibodies. We know nothing of the other 37.
While encouraging, you won't find respected scientists getting too excited yet. They know what Moderna has done is to take the ball out of the end zone and reach the one yard line. Nintey-nine to go.
Two things are exciting, however. First, Moderna was able to get to this point at light speed. What Moderna did in about 70 days usually takes three to four years. That is over the moon fast, but the other ninety-nine yards are going to be increasingly more arduous. Second, there are more than 100 other groups around the world, both pharmaceutical and academic, who are also going hell bent for leather to develop the vaccine that will eradicate COVID-19. Although I have every confidence one of these groups, maybe Moderna, will cross the goal line at the other end of the field, it will take a miracle on the order of the Raising of Lazarus for this to happen before mid to late 2021.
Until then: Constant vigilance. Complacency will kill you. Really. Please keep this in mind as all the beaches and parks open this coming Memorial Day weekend. It will be highly tempting to revert to former form.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.