Occupational disease claims [ODC], such as infectious disease cases, have generally been problematic for the workers' compensation system in proof and defense. They are usually costly to litigate and monumental in risk exposure.
Occupational disease claims as an added component to the statutory policy provisions of workers' compensation and have been evolving throughout the decades. The crafters of the original compensation acts in the US in 1911 did not incorporate ODC claims into the program. They were added in the 1950s when employers wanted to shelter themselves from large verdicts in civil actions anticipated from silica exposures. ODC claims resulted in an unanticipated wave of asbestos disease claims in the 1970s.
Those who advocate for a Federalized program for the delivery of medical benefits observe that varying statutory eligibility requirements for compensability of infectious disease claims result in litigation delays and denial of urgent care.
Those encouraging changes look to a recent study that estimated a single-payer universal healthcare system would have saved 212,000 lives in 2020 alone during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The report calculated that a Medicare-for-All system could have prevented US $105.6 billion of medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalization.
The phases of the SAR-CoV-2 illustrate the need for rapid delivery of care at the onset of the infection was necessary to contain the “Cytokine storm.” Many SAR-CoV-2 system complications may be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm. An infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Additional complications could result in secondary and sometimes fatal reactions and Long COVID / Post Acute COVID Sequelae [PASC].
Advocates of a Medicare-for-All [MFA] system state that the United States should follow the path already taken by European countries, whose workers' compensation systems pre-dated those of the US. It would provide immediate medical benefits to workers without the need for litigation and the associated administrative costs. Also, the potentially catastrophic results in endless and unpredictable waves of disease would not strain the state workers' compensation programs. A MFA program has support from both the far right and left of the major US political parties. Time will tell if the current and future consequences of the SAR-CoV-2 pandemic will generate the necessary momentum to cause infectious disease claims to be incorporated into a MFA program.
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.