The Business Council strongly opposes any addition language in the state budget that would amend the Workers’ Compensation Law to create an occupational disease presumption for people who have contracted COVID-19. Not only does such a provision completely ignore both the common law and statutory concept of causation of injury, its effect will – based on initial assessments by the Comp Insurance Rating Board – be the bankrupting of commercial workers’ compensation carriers, the State Insurance Fund and self-insured employers.
In a drastic change to current state law, this proposal would give a presumption of disability to 100 percent of New York’s employees who have contracted COVID-19, thus shifting the burden of paying these workers to the workers’ compensation system. The cost of such a shift is impossible to currently price given the growing numbers of New Yorkers contracting the virus. The Governor has estimated publicly that as many as 60 to 80 percent of New Yorkers would eventually contract the disease. Based on these numbers, the cost of this proposal would easily be in the tens of billions of dollars, manifesting a total collapse of the workers’ compensation system.
Further, highlighting the irresponsible nature of this proposal, is the fact that a shift of this kind would also mean a shift of treatment of this disease to the workers’ compensation system. The Workers’ Compensation Board, the Legislature and the Governor have recently enacted laws, regulations and programs meant to help increase the number of doctors who participate in the system. This is because there has been a major shortage of doctors, specifically primary care physicians (the front line in the COVID-19 battle) in the system. There is no question that this proposal will further complicate the treatment of the sick and put greater strain on already very strained resources.
This legislation would severely disrupt any attempt to control the costs of New York's comp system and the treatment of New Yorkers sickened by COVID-19. The proposal is badly flawed, and should be immediately removed from consideration by the Legislature
For these reasons The Business Council opposes the enactment of this terrible proposal to the strongest extent possible.