August 6, 2018

PTSD Legislation Continues to Grow

Minnesota House File 3873 was signed into law in late July, officially recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) without an accompanying physical injury as an occupational disease covered under workers’ compensation for first responders.

While many states cover PTSD (a condition of mental anguish following psychological shock that often results in sleep disturbances, vivid flashbacks, anxiety, and depression) when it results from a physical injury, there has been recent momentum to cover PTSD for first responders when physical injuries are not present, as their occupations can expose them to serious psychological trauma.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) reports that in 2018 alone, at least 16 states considered legislation addressing workers’ comp coverage for “mental-only” injuries like PTSD. As Healthesystems has previously noted, within just this last year, states such as Florida, Nebraska, Texas, and Colorado have passed mental-only PTSD laws for first responders.

Furthermore, in May New Hampshire Senate Bill 553 established a commission to study the incidence of PTSD in first responders. The commission is expected to deliver a report in November, which could determine whether PTSD should be covered for first responders without physical injuries under workers’ compensation.

It’s understandable why these laws are written for first responders. An estimated 84% of first responders experience a traumatic event on the job, while it is estimated that anywhere from 6-32% of first responders have PTSD. However, if more and more mental-only PTSD laws pass for first responders, it could open the door for other industries.

Colorado’s mental-only PTSD law, enacted last year, covers all workers, not just first responders, while states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have offered such wider coverage for years.

Industry advocates could argue that their industries should receive similar coverage. For example, statistics show that healthcare workers, beyond emergency medical technicians, are four times more likely to experience workplace violence than other industries, with 21% of nurses and nursing students reporting being physically assaulted on the job, and 59% reporting verbal abuse.

And beyond compensability, there’s another conversation to be had surrounding medical marijuana. Louisiana House Bill 579 was recently signed into law, expanding the state’s medical marijuana program to include more qualifying conditions, including PTSD. This brings the number of states that list PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana from 23 up to 24. The clinical benefits and risks of using marijuana for PTSD are still uncertain, and more broadly, medical marijuana’s place as a reimbursable treatment under workers’ compensation remains hotly debated.

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