Updated Review of 2020 WC-related Changes

Nancy Grover

Boca Raton, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – COVID-19 presumptions, mental injuries, independent contractors and marijuana were among the top workers’ compensation related issues addressed by states this year. NCCI’s updated 2020 Regulatory and Legislative Trends Report provides an overview of changes affecting the system.

COVID-19 “was the focus as reflected in workers’ compensation legislation and regulatory actions related to presumptions of compensability for contraction of or exposure to” the condition, according to the report. Twenty-two states considered presumption legislation to allow certain employees easier access to workers’ compensation coverage. Nine states adopted them, including Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Other states saw presumptions addressed through regulatory actions, including Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.

“Many of the COVID-19 workers compensation presumptions are temporary, meaning the presumption is applicable for a certain period of time or expires when the state’s state of emergency ends,” NCCI said. “Next year, states may take additional action to extend and/or expand their existing presumptions. In addition, new states may consider workers compensation presumptions for COVID-19.”

Legislation legalizing marijuana was approved by voters in several states, bringing the totals to 15 states that allow recreational marijuana and 35 states and D.C. that allow medical marijuana. On the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill to allow federal legalization. While it most likely will not be considered by the Senate, advocates say it’s an important first step.

As in previous years, several states addressed coverage for work-related mental injuries, with five states adopting the idea: Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Some 50 bills related to post-traumatic stress disorder were considered.

Rideshare companies and other gig economy organizations were the focus of action in California. Several bills addressed the idea of the ‘ABC’ test to determine whether a worker should be identified as an employee or independent contractor. One of the two bills actually approved would create exemptions for certain newspaper carriers as well as artists, musicians and photographers. Voters in the state approved a ballot measure that classifies drivers for transportation and delivery companies to be considered independent contractors.

Single payer health insurance was on the radar for lawmakers in 14 states, although none passed. Proposals in four of the states – Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York had specifically mentioned workers’ compensation or benefits to injujred workers in their proposals.

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