June 3, 2021

Mental Health Injuries Gain Momentum in Workers’ Comp

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts recently signed Legislative Bill 407 into law, providing workers’ comp coverage for mental injuries and mental illness among correctional employees.

The state previously enacted legislation establishing workers’ comp coverage for first responders for “mental-only” injuries that do not include a physical injury, and this new law extends those same rights to additional occupations.

Across the nation, more and more states are debating whether or not to cover mental health claims, and if so, if they should cover claims that do not include a corresponding physical injury.

Healthesystems has previously reported on how first responders – a population vulnerable to mental health concerns due to a high likelihood of encountering traumatic events on the job – are gaining coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but now it seems the coverage of mental health concerns may be expanding.

Earlier this year when covering top legislative issues for 2021, NCCI reported that at least 40 bills were in motion this year surrounding compensation for mental injuries, with more than 30 of those bills specifically mentioning PTSD, though states are unique in how they define mental injuries.

Currently, two major bills making progress are taking place in Connecticut and New York.

The Connecticut General Assembly introduced Senate Bill 660, which would expand workers’ comp benefits for certain mental or emotional impairments suffered by healthcare providers in connection with COVID-19.

This bill would apply to activities substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to witnessing the death of a person due to COVID-19 and treating patients with COVID-19. The list of healthcare professionals this bill would cover is wide, including persons employed at:

  • Doctors’ offices, healthcare centers, hospitals or clinics
  • Medical schools
  • Local health departments
  • Nursing facilities, retirement facilities, nursing homes, or group homes
  • Home healthcare providers
  • Any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing
  • Pharmacies or any similar institution
  • Any other location where the employee must provide personal care assistance

This bill has passed the House and Senate and now sits with the Governor. If enacted, it could help set precedent for expanding mental injury claims to healthcare workers beyond the scope of the pandemic, as healthcare workers frequently experience traumatic events on the job.

Healthcare workers are four times as likely to experience workplace violence than other workers, and 18% of nurses meet the criteria for PTSD.

Meanwhile, New York introduced Senate Bill 6373, which would expand to all workers the ability to receive PTSD coverage for extraordinary work-related stress incurred at work. Bill text specifies that factual findings must prove that stress was greater than that which usually occurs in the normal work environment.

This bill has already passed the Senate and now sits with the Assembly.

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