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State of the States - February 4, 2022

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What's happening this week in workers' compensation? IWP's weekly legislative wrap-up, the State of the States, keeps you up to date on important matters within the workers' compensation and pharmacy arena.

National News - OSHA formally withdrew its vaccine mandate

NationalThe Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) formally withdrew its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for private employers with over 100 employees effective late last week. Abandoning the directive comes after the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down the mandate’s legal standing citing concerns of federal overreach. Despite the withdrawal, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) officials are not ruling out lower-scale vaccine requirements for specific job sectors, which SCOTUS said could be permissible on a case-by-case basis. OSHA will now look for more innovative methods and incentives to increase the U.S. vaccination rate, which as of this week stands at less than 65% fully vaccinated.


The workers’ compensation industry remained strong in 2020 and 2021. Covid claims that once caused massive fears turned out to be less expensive and more infrequent than first thought. While less claim frequency is reducing rates, some industry executives warn there are some risk considerations, including inflation and the great resignation that could increase premiums. If inflation does not trend downward rapidly, the Federal Reserve may raise rates more aggressively, leading to market stability concerns, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and Sedgewick. Specifically, there is cause for concern with increases in medical inflation, which recorded low levels in recent years. If inflation persists, this could make claims more costly overall.

The great resignation is also causing a stir as employers look urgently for available workers. Turning to less skilled/experienced employees during the labor shortage is likely to result in more injuries which could push up rates. Although Covid claims were not as bad as initially thought, they continue to linger. Long haul Covid claims also remain unknown in terms of overall costs and length of time. Inflation, the great resignation, and long haul Covid continue to be hot topics to monitor as the worker’s compensation industry rolls into 2022.


Florida legislators looking to change the state’s PTSD/Mental Health presumption

FLCovid claims in the sunshine state tripled from November to December. A total of 918 claims were recorded in December compared to just 296 in November. Despite the uptick, the number remains less than half the average seen in the number of claims per month during 2021. The increase, although alarming, is nowhere near numbers that totaled nearly 5,000 in July or August with over 7,000 plus claims. Since January of 2020, a total of 60,803 claims were filed with the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation. The Division says that 11,439 claims remain open while 49,364 were closed, paying out $72 million in benefits. The vast majority of claims involved payouts for less than $5,000, with only 33 seeing payments above $500,000. Of all claims, nearly 28,000 were denied entirely for benefits.

HB689 & SB732 both passed key committees this week. HB689 aims to change the state’s current PTSD presumption law so that first responders would have 90 days after being diagnosed with PTSD to file a notice of claim with their employer rather than filing notice within 90 days of the qualifying event or manifestation of the mental disorder. Several first responders could become eligible for such benefits with this language tweak.

It is expected that later this month the bill will likely receive a floor vote after passing through three different House committees since being introduced in January. Meanwhile, SB732 requires the Florida Health Department to create heat illness prevention rules, particularly for sectors more exposed, such as construction and agriculture. The bill received significant support from the Agriculture Committee and now moves to the Health Policy Committee for further consideration. It is well noted that more injuries occur due to heat over the summer months than at any other time of the year.


Minnesota likely to continue its Covid-19 presumption into 2023

MNState lawmakers look poised to continue their Covid protections for frontline workers and first responders until May 31, 2023. HF 2656 would renew the workers’ compensation Covid presumptions for eligible workers and include retroactive coverage to the previous deadline of December 31, 2021. The House Labor, Industry, Veterans, and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee voted to advance the bill this week. With many states allowing their Covid presumptions to expire due to the rollout of vaccines, Minnesota is one of the few states allowing for enhanced protections against Covid to continue.


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