Cambridge, MA, January 14, 2021 ― A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) addresses how the massive slowdown of economic activity early in the pandemic impacted workers’ compensation, and to what extent COVID-19 claims have arisen in the workers’ compensation system.
The study, The Early Impact of COVID-19 on Workers’ Compensation Claim Composition, analyzed paid claims for private sector workers and local public employees in 27 states by comparing the first two quarters of 2020 and 2019.
“This report will shed some light on the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers’ compensation and help policymakers and stakeholders track changes in key dimensions of the effect of COVID-19 on workers’ compensation,” said John Ruser, president and CEO of WCRI.
The following are among the study’s major findings:
- There was great variation in the percentage of COVID-19 claims among all workers’ compensation paid claims across the study states, ranging from 1 percent in Kansas and South Carolina to 34 percent in New Jersey and 42 percent in Massachusetts in the second quarter of 2020. A number of factors may have contributed to the variation, including severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, presumption laws, and compensability rules.
- As compared with 2019Q1, we observed decreases in 2020Q1 in the number of non-COVID-19 claims across all states, ranging from a 2 percent decrease in Arkansas to a 20 percent decrease in Connecticut. Comparing 2020Q2 with 2019Q2, the reduction in the volume of non-COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims was even larger, dropping by at least 30 percent in the vast majority of the states and by as much as 50 percent in Massachusetts.
- For lost-time claims with more than seven days away from work (including COVID-19 lost-time claims), we observed even greater variation in the changes of workers’ compensation claim volume, with some states reporting increases and some reporting decreases in the number of lost-time claims. For the second quarter, the change from 2019 to 2020 in the number of lost-time claims varied between a 27 percent decrease in Nevada and a 63 percent increase in Massachusetts.
- We found substantial concentration of COVID-19 claims among workers employed in service industries (85 percent in 2020Q2), particularly in assisted living facilities, hospitals, and the offices of physicians and dentists.
- Overall, there was tremendous variation in how the pandemic impacted different industries as a result of lockdowns, massive economic slowdown, and remote work. Comparing 2020Q2 against 2019Q2, the largest decrease in the number of non-COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims was 57 percent for clerical and professional employees. The smallest decrease was 25 percent for construction workers.
This study covers claims with injury dates in the first two quarters of 2019 and 2020 with payments made for either medical services or income benefits during the first two quarters of the respective years in 27 states. These states ─ which represent 68 percent of the workers’ compensation benefits paid in the United States ─ are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The authors of this study are Dr. Olesya Fomenko and Dr. John Ruser. To learn more about this study or to download a copy, visit https://www.wcrinet.org/reports/the-early-impact-of-covid-19-on-workers-compensation-claim-composition.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA. Organized in late 1983, the Institute does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures. WCRI's diverse membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.