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COVID-19 impacting workers’ comp regulatory provisions and pending legislation

March 23, 2020 · Policy Matters team

  • States take action regarding COVID-19 and workers’ comp
  • Legislative sessions suspended or postponed in several states
  • Resources to keep you informed about workers’ comp public policy developments

Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, state governors, regulators and legislatures have initiated a range of urgent policy changes or directives to facilitate response and mitigation efforts, including at the workers’ compensation level. This heightened focus has diverted some attention away from other policy developments.

Impact to workers’ comp policy

Billing codes and telemedicine
Some states have communicated specific billing codes which can be used for coronavirus testing. And telemedicine has also been a prominent feature of this added guidance, with states such as Colorado, Ohio and Washington loosening their telemedicine origination site or authorization requirements to ensure easier access for injured workers who may be avoiding leaving their homes.

Coverage for those quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure
Workers’ compensation coverage and compensability has also been reevaluated. Washington, for example, also changed their policy on workers’ compensation coverage for health care workers and first responders who are quarantined by a physician or public health officer in order to provide benefits to these workers during the time they are quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job. And legislatures are already introducing bills in states like Minnesota and New York that would, if enacted, provide coverage and benefits for those quarantined in response to the virus.

Impact on legislation

As with several businesses and public events, many state legislatures have also closed down amid the outbreak. These suspensions or postponements include larger states (California) and smaller states (Delaware), spread across the country (from Hawaii to Rhode Island). The National Conference of State Legislatures has been tracking the status of legislatures on its website, here.

While several states with shorter sessions had already adjourned prior to the outbreak’s spread in the U.S., some states normally meet year-round, and many others have scheduled adjournment dates later in the year. This puts many pieces of pending legislation, including workers’ comp and auto no-fault bills, in hiatus for the time being.

Key pieces of workers’ comp-related legislation affected by legislative suspensions
During the peak of legislative sessions, the Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-fault Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs team tracks thousands of bills at any given time. These are a wide range of bills impacting coverage and care in workers’ comp and auto no-fault: PTSD and cancer presumption for first responders, drug formularies, opioid prescription limitations, medical marijuana coverage, personal injury protection repeal, provider choice changes, utilization review adjustments, single-payer proposals, and more. For a list of the higher priority bills which may have a more notable impact on the services we provide our clients, a subset of our larger list, please visit our website here.

Evolving developments

As the situation continues to evolve at a fast pace, we expect to see an increase in communications and directives from various state insurance regulators and workers’ compensation agencies on how everyday processes and care delivery under the state workers’ compensation systems are to be handled under the current special conditions.

For the latest information:

Links to additional online information from various public policy organizations and state agencies focused on responding to the virus:

Should you have any questions on this or any other developing public policy matter, please reach out to our team at OWCAPolicyMatters@optum.com.


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