While we all wish we had a crystal ball to see exactly what the upcoming year has in store, we can make reasonable predictions of workers’ compensation issues to watch based on current trends and pending legislation.

COVID-19 drove a number of legislative measures impacting workers’ compensation. Here are a few “legal hot topics” in the New England states to be aware of as we head into 2022.

Workers’ Compensation COVID-19 Presumption

A presumption law describes the conditions where an injury to a worker is presumed to have happened on the job and should be compensated. Many bills were proposed in 2020 and 2021 to allow workers who contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 in the scope of their employment to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In 2020, the only New England state to formally enact a COVID-19 presumption law was Vermont.

The Vermont law was one of the broadest in the country. It was available to all employees in Vermont with a stipulation that non-frontline workers required additional proof of contraction in the course of employment. The legislation was in effect from March 1, 2020, through July 2021, 30 days after the end of the state of emergency.

New Hampshire issued two executive orders in 2020 that created a prima facie presumption for first responders and members of the National Guard who contracted COVID-19. They remained in effect until New Hampshire’s COVID-19 state of emergency terminated in June 2021.

Connecticut issued Executive Order No. 7JJJ which created a rebuttable presumption for employees who contracted COVID-19 at work in 2020 between March 10th and May 20th. A rebuttable presumption is one that is decided to be true unless proven otherwise.

A.I.M. Mutual continues to watch COVID-19 presumption bills and any new proposed presumptive legislation related to COVID-19 that might be introduced in the New England states.

COVID-19 and the Workers’ Compensation Rate Environment

Since the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) views the COVID-19 pandemic as a catastrophic event for ratemaking purposes, COVID-19 related claims will not be considered when determining upcoming loss costs and rates.

Ratemaking is prospective, meaning that rate makers look to the future to anticipate losses and payroll during the ratemaking period when those rates would be in effect. The upcoming rate filing season ranges from November 2021 to August 2022. Going forward, NCCI proposed a change to the definition of the catastrophe provision, broadening the scope to include any losses of more than $50 million. Previously, this provision only covered single-event losses in excess of $50 million caused by “earthquakes, noncertified acts of terrorism, or catastrophic industrial accidents.” This change acknowledges that there are additional, potentially unknown categories of catastrophic exposure that should be considered.

Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Prophylactic Treatments

A bill in New Hampshire—H.B. 589—would require workers’ compensation coverage for public safety and healthcare workers who need prophylactic treatment in response to contact with bodily fluids such as saliva and blood. If approved, this would expand the legal definition of “critical exposure” in New Hampshire’s workers’ compensation law.

Telehealth Services

According to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, currently, almost every state allows payment for telehealth services in workers’ compensation cases. All the New England states have a statute addressing telehealth.

Many states expanded access for injured workers to telehealth services because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated medical office closures due to the lockdown in 2020. What once felt futuristic—happening only on “The Jetsons” —has now become a universally accepted way to receive medical care.

For both injured workers and workers’ compensation carriers, this has been a game changer. Telehealth has proven to improve the speed of connecting a patient with a medical provider as well as reduce the amount of money spent on medical care. Here at A.I.M. Mutual, we have seen success with this additional way for injured workers to get the care they need. While telehealth is not a replacement for in-person medical evaluations, it is certainly a viable alternative for injured workers who are unable to be seen in person or who prefer to augment their medical treatment with telehealth.

Workers’ Compensation for Workplace-Related Mental Injuries

According to NCCI, nine states—including Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire—enacted legislation addressing workers’ compensation coverage for workplace-related mental injuries in 2021. Connecticut was particularly active in this realm and proposed numerous bills.

SB 660 was passed in Connecticut which expands benefits for certain mental or emotional impairments—including PTSD—for healthcare workers who suffered injuries related to the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Maine enacted LD 467 which allows emergency dispatchers and corrections officers diagnosed with PTSD to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In New Hampshire, a bill was enacted to reestablish a commission to study post-traumatic stress in first responders and the implications for potential workers’ compensation coverage. This will remain a hot topic for 2022 as our nation and our industry come to terms with how to address mental health-related injuries in workers.







JODI WILLIAMS is Compliance Manager for A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Companies. Previously, she was A.I.M. Mutual’s Residual Market Underwriting Specialist. She has a background in risk management, compliance, and data analysis. She also served on the Board of Directors for a Massachusetts-based workers’ compensation self-insured group.