The legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee approved a series of detrimental and costly workers' compensation proposals during its March 25 meeting.
All but one of the bills include COVID-19 presumption language that extends and opens the workers' compensation program to unmeasurable numbers of potential claimants.
A third, standalone bill passed by the committee, HB 6478, mirrors the workers' compensation sections and language in the omnibus bills.
All three proposals include the following costly requirements that threaten the fiscal stability of the workers' compensation system:
- A presumption that an employee who contracts COVID-19 during the period of the public health emergency contracted it in the workplace, regardless of where they were actually afflicted
- A 400% increase in benefits and expansion of the maximum number of weeks of discretionary benefits for partial permanent disabilities that may be awarded
- An increase in the workers' compensation death benefit from $4,000 to $20,000
These three bills passed out of committee on party line vote, with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans opposed.
A fourth bill, SB 660, was voted out of committee unanimously
Like HB 6595, this bill expands workers' compensation coverage to include mental or emotional impairments suffered by all healthcare workers during the course of COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1990s' workers' compensation system reforms excluded benefits for mental and emotional injuries after complaints of frivolous claims.
For more information, contact CBIA's John Blair (860.244.1921).