Virginia extends workers’ compensation coverage for Covid-19

Virginia has a problem. Workers have been required to treat patients with Covid-19, but are not covered by workers compensation insurance due to Virginia’s strict proof requirements for occupational disease. Fortunately, the General Assembly acted to rectify this problem. Council has passed a new law providing coverage for healthcare workers and first responders who contract Covid-19. The law assumes that the disease is transmitted through work. As a result, health care workers and first responders can now get coverage through their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance. The caveat is that the disease must be diagnosed between March 2020 and December 31, 2021.

Under a regular occupational disease claim in Virginia, the diagnosed employee must not prove by clear and convincing medical evidence that the problem was acquired on the job but the employee must be able to prove that the problem did not occur outside the workplace. As a result of these stringent proof requirements, it is very difficult to get coverage for this type of problem especially when the general public is exposed to the virus.

This law is a commendable attempt to ensure that employees who put their lives on the line for the rest of us receive medical coverage and lost wages. Under Virginia’s workers’ compensation law, a worker who is diagnosed can cover their medical bills 100% for the rest of their lives. Also, if illness causes disability, the insurance will provide coverage for loss of wages up to two-thirds of the employee’s salary for a maximum of 500 weeks. This bill should not only provide coverage for doctors, nurses, and police, but also nurse aides, officials, sheriff’s deputies, and others who have to put their lives on the front lines so we can all be safe.

Nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities have been one of the hardest hit areas in Virginia. It’s often the underpaid certified nursing assistants, nurse’s aides, and orderlies who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

I hope if the pandemic is not resolved by December 31, 2021, the law will be extended. Since the law provides for a presumption, the insurance company will have to prove that the employee had the virus other than on the job. It is to be hoped that those who are the first to respond to this crisis will not get the coverage they deserve.