Board Converting News, April 11, 2022

Reducing Premiums (CONT’D FROM PAGE 1 )

or that we know occurred.” A big reason that claims haven’t mushroomed is that most employers have gone out of their way to protect their employees. And many employees are still working from home, reducing their chances of exposure. “Most employ- ees are covered by some form of health insurance so even if they can’t establish that it happened at work, they’re still covered,” said Free. Another plus: Claims to date have not been all that costly. “The average cost on COVID claims is less than $5,000,” says Dennis Tierney, National Director of Work- ers’ Compensation Claims for Marsh, the insurance broker and risk advisor. “In contrast, the average cost for a typical workers’ comp claim—combining medical and lost time— is about $20,000.” It remains to be seen what the effect of costly COVID hospitalizations will be, he adds. Recent- ly, hospitalizations were running at five percent of cases, but 20 percent of that five percent took place in ICUs with costly 12-day average stays. Mental Health COVID has led to other social conditions that affect workers’ comp. Among them is mental distress. Sieberg points out that some states have started to add workers’ comp coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder on the part of employees who were put into work environments that were never expected to be very hazardous but turned out to be so because of COVID. Examples of such jobs

ers Compensation Consultants ( workcompconsultant. com ). “Some states have enacted so-called presump- tion legislation, to the effect that workers are presumed to have contracted their COVID cases at the workplace.” Prior to COVID, he adds, the burden of proof was always on the injured worker for a workers’ comp claim. Now it is often up to the employer to prove an infection happened somewhere other than the workplace. Long COVID Also looming are costly claims for so-called “long haul COVID”—a term referring to illnesses that linger for years. “I think it’s too early to tell what injuries or disease may ultimately result from COVID,” said Daniel C. Free, Presi- dent and General Counsel, Insurance Audit & Inspection Co ( ). “The infections could have long tail effects. Consider what happened with asbestosis or black lung disease. There are still cases out there materi- alizing even though the basic exposure was eliminated a generation ago. So I’m not sure I’m ready to close the door on COVID even if we vaccinate everybody.” On the plus side of the COVID equation, claims are not as common as feared. “All the piles and piles of COVID claims people were expecting, never really happened,” says James J. Moore, President of J&L Risk Management Consultants, Raleigh, NC ( ). “We were expecting six or seven times as many claims as we got in


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April 11, 2022

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