COVID-19 a Growing Share of Shrinking Work Comp Claims in 2 States

COVID-19 has become a large chunk of a dwindling number of workers’ compensation claims in Florida and California, limited data shows.

The number of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims reported in California more than quadrupled to 22,621 since the last data was reported on June 2, even as the total number of injury reports declined.

In Florida, the pace of COVID-19 indemnity claims held steady after peaking in April, reaching 5,693 as of June 30 — while the total number of claims plummeted.

Those two numbers are not comparable. Florida provides monthly reports on all COVID-19 claims that result in indemnity payments. California releases, when asked, the total number of first reports of injury where COVID-19 was listed as the cause, so that number includes medical-only claims.

But for the time being, snippets of data is all the insurance industry has to go on.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance said in a webcast earlier this month that it won’t have any thorough data about COVID-19 claims until the end of September, when quarterly injury reports come in. Nevertheless, Insurance Information Institute economist

Steven N. Weisbart said during the webcast that he doesn’t see how the work comp line can make a profit this year.

Nothing in the limited data available up to now points to any reason to expect disaster. While COVID-19 emerged as a new occupational disease, the pandemic has also caused claims counts to plummet.

Consider the California numbers: In January, 51,501 first reports of injury were filed — only 23 of them for COVID-19. The number of claims dipped to 30,592 in April, increased slightly in June and jumped to 45,338 in June, after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted stay-home orders.

The report shows that 8,514 of those June injury reports were for COVID-19, nearly one fifth of the total.

In Florida, the total number of indemnity claims climbed from 6,625 in January to 7,156 in March, but then plummeted to 2,707 in June. That reduction would have been more dramatic if not for the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 was the cause of 28 percent of indemnity claims in March, 36 percent in April, 23 percent in May and 25 percent in June.

The Florida report shows that self-insured employers and insurers paid $7,074.389 in indemnity benefits for workers with COVID-19 as of June 30. Governments paid 56 percent of that, insurers 29 percent and private self-insured employers the rest.

A word of caution: The reported data is maturing and more claims may be added to the totals as data is added. Florida’s apparent drastic claim reduction in June, for example, may creep back up.

In California, the latest report with data up to July 22 gives higher totals for earlier months than was reported on June 2, showing that a similar maturation of data is at work.

Mitchell International, a San Diego-based insurance data provider, released its own snippet of COVID-19 claims data on Friday.

The company said 66 percent of the workers’ compensation claims in its database were filed by workers in the health care and social assistance industries, 7 percent in public administration, 4 percent in education, 3 percent in transportation and warehousing, 4 percent in manufacturing and 16 percent in other sectors.

Mitchell said essential services — health care and social assistance, transportation and warehousing services and wholesale trade—have seen significant increases in overall workers’ compensation claims frequency in the first half of 2020.

“On the other hand, industries that have faced COVID-19 regulations in states throughout the country, like accommodation and food services and educational services, have seen a decrease in overall workers’ compensation claim frequency,” the company said.

This article was first published by Insurance Journal.

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