If COVID-19 behaves like other workers’ compensation lung and disease claims, about two out of 100 cases may result in some degree of permanent partial disability and one out of 5,000 may result in permanent total disability, according to a new report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
In a follow up to the report by the Claims Journal, Jeff Eddinger, NCCI’s senior division executive for regulatory business management, said Thursday that’s not enough to be a major cost driver, but does represent a real risk that insurers should keep in mind when assessing the potential impact of the pandemic on losses.
“The vast majority of COVID claims are small-dollar claims,” Eddinger said in a telephone interview. “There is a small percentage that will result in permanent disability claims.”
NCCI has included the potential for permanent disability into its Hypothetical Scenarios Tool, a calculator released in May that models COVID-19 costs under various scenarios. The calculator allows users to adjust assumptions, such as the percentage of workers who are infected, the percentage hospitalized and now the percentage who are permanently disabled.
Adjusting the calculator to assume no permanent disability claims results in projected COVID-19 costs of $25.1 billion for the 38 states that use NCCI services. But the total cost increases by $4 billion when using the new default settings for permanent disability provided by NCCI.
NCCI said in a previous study that it assumes 8.5% of workers who file claims will require hospitalization for moderate symptoms and 1.5% will develop severe cases that require critical care.
The bottom line: There is a 2.3% chance that a reported COVID-19 claim will result in permanent partial injury and there’s a 0.05% chance that a COVID claim will result in a permanent total injury.
The Claims Journal analysis continues to note that data reported by state officials in California and Florida suggests that COVID-19 claims have become a sizable fraction of the total number of workers compensation claims filed. According to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation, COVID-19 was the cause of 44,354 first reports of injury from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, or 11% of the total number.
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation reports that 21,221 COVID-19 indemnity claims have been filed as of Sept. 30, or 31.8% of the total number of injury and illness claims in the state.
Marsh issued a report this week that concludes, “many of the most dire predictions about COVID-19’s impact on workers’ compensation systems have not been realized.”
“Claims of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace have been outpaced by a decline in other types of reported occupational injuries, and the workers’ compensation insurance market remains competitive,” the report says.
Marsh said data from its clients shows that the number of new claims reported from January through August showed illness and injury rates ranged from a 29% decrease in April to a 5% increase in June.
The claims filed so far have proven to be inexpensive: 96% cost less than $3,500, according to one respondent to the Health Strategy Associates survey.