Maryland lawmakers are considering a new bill (Senate Bill 10) this session that would create a rebuttable presumption for first responders who are diagnosed with COVID-19. The bill presumes that if an eligible employee is COVID-positive, their diagnosis arose out of and occurred in the course of their employment. Semmes will be monitoring the progress of this bill and providing testimony in opposition to the bill during the upcoming legislative session.
One reason Semmes’ opposes the bill is that there is already a remedy for COVID-19 claims under the general provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act, and these claims are being heard by the Workers’ Compensation Commission on the merits. There is a relatively low volume of COVID-19 cases that have been filed by the Commission, and those that have are being tried.
COVID-19 is also improperly classified in this bill as an occupational disease when the Commission has been treating it as an accidental injury because the infection stems from a single exposure and not a slow and insidious onset. Additionally, this presumption lacks the same scientific research or studies that other presumptions passed by the legislature have undergone. The bill also has no standards for testing and does not address an exclusion for those who refuse vaccination.
Furthermore, the financial impact to employers and insurers in Maryland is likely to be significant, as the presumption is being applied retroactively. This would mean that employers and insurers will be faced with an increasing number of claims dating back almost two years under a new legal standard that was not in effect at the time. When a similar bill was introduced last session, it was noted that state expenditures would increase and the impact on state and location governments would be significant, as premiums would rise due to the claims experienced under the expanded occupational disease presumption.
You can read the full text of the bill here.