Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, many social and human service agencies have continued to offer services to those who need it most, in both traditional and innovative ways. In doing so, many questions have been asked about how to best mitigate risk during the social distancing advisement and shelter-in-place order. Below are answers to some of these most commonly asked questions we have seen and helped advise thus far.
We are offering TeleHealth for therapy. Is this ok?
With COVID-19 limiting many human service agencies’ ability to deliver services, some have turned to a new delivery method, TeleHealth. Utilizing technology like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime for therapy can be a fantastic way to continue progress, keep routines, and engage with your consumers. Agencies must consider the potential issues that come with this new delivery method, such as remaining compliant with HIPAA. Any direct patient care can be extremely complicated, and agencies should consider if the service can be provided safely and effectively via TeleHealth. Before any services are offered through TeleHealth, agencies must converse with their insurance broker to make sure that the correct coverage is in place should a claim arise.
We have DSPs that have COVID-19. Should we file a workers’ comp claim?
If an agency provides residential or CILA services, there is a possibility that a DSP could be in contact with a consumer who is positive for COVID-19. If a DSP becomes ill and believes that they contracted the virus in the scope of their work, agencies should report the claim to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
On April 12, 2020, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker made a major change to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission rules concerning arbitration through an emergency amendment. Specifically, the amendment adds information concerning COVID-19 and how the arbitrator is to view the infection as it relates to employment. The amendment applies to “First Responder or Front-Line Worker(s),” as defined in the Executive Order 2020-10 dated March 20, 2020. Please see the specific section of the Workers’ Compensation Commission rule. This change could potentially have significant consequences for employers as it paves the way for COVID-19 claims to be compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system. It is also critical to remember the Illinois Workers’ Compensation rules have been in place for years, and no change happens overnight.
It is in your best interest to file a workers’ compensation claim with your carrier if you have any employee that alleges they have the COVID-19 virus, and they believe it is related to their employment. Report this to the carrier as soon as you are made aware so that a timely investigation can be completed.
We are paying employees to continue to work, but they aren’t performing the hands-on services that they traditionally do, and the risk of injury has decreased. Should we track this for workers’ compensation?
Yes. It is unclear how long the workforce will be altered by COVID-19, and tracking impact is significant. If there is a substantial change to the exposure or duties of an employee, then human service agencies should be meticulous in tracking the job duties and payroll attributable to those duties. Upon the year-end audit, it may be possible for employers to appeal the codes assigned for the year and have a lower-rated code assigned for the time that duties were altered due to COVID-19. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI):
“As stated in Basic Manual Rule 1-A, subject to certain exceptions, it is the business of the employer within a state that is classified, not separate employments, occupations, or operations within the business. Therefore, the classification of the employees working in new roles might not change. However, there may be situations where a change in classification could occur, such as when:
- The employer’s operations have changed to a different classification, or
- An employee’s occupation for the employer has changed (similar to when an employee receives a job promotion) to a different classification that may be applied to the employer’s policy (e.g., an employee changes to a clerical position and Code 8810—Clerical Office Employees NOC may be applied to the policy).
In accordance with Basic Manual Rules 1-D-3 and 2-G, the employer would be responsible for maintaining separate payroll records for the change in operations or the wages earned for an employee whose occupation has changed. If these records are not maintained, then all payroll would be assigned to the highest-rated applicable class code.”
If an agency feels that a different code would be more appropriate upon the annual audit, it will be their responsibility to prove it. While there is never a guarantee of a code change, thorough records will be vital in making your case.
We had to cancel our fundraising event, is there any coverage?
One of the first victims of COVID-19 was special events. For nonprofit, social, and human service agencies, these events serve as a substantial revenue stream. Additionally, many events have expenses that must be paid well in advance of the event date. Many of these events were canceled, and on short notice, with no sign of being rescheduled.
Unfortunately, most general liability, property, and directors and officers’ insurance policies for human service agencies do not include coverage for loss of revenue from a canceled fundraising event, or coverage for expenses lost on a canceled event. Even a majority of Special Event Cancellation policies have an exclusion for “communicable disease” or “pandemic.”
Consult your broker to confirm whether there is coverage applicable or not in your policies.
We have limited our programs, and a large number of our vehicles are not in use. Can we suspend insurance coverage to decrease costs?
The short answer is yes. Many carriers that write auto insurance in the human service space allow for a temporary suspension of vehicle insurance, which can result in a significant reduction in premium. Be sure to consult with your broker as each carrier has specific requirements to suspend coverage, such as a 30-day minimum or required removal of license plates.
If you decide to suspend coverage, comprehensive and collision coverage must be still in force on appropriate vehicles. While the vehicles may not be on the road, they are not immune to vandalism, hail damage, theft, or being hit by another vehicle. It is also imperative to institute a plan to make sure that no vehicles are driven before coverage is reinstated.
This can all be very confusing and frustrating. We are here for you. We will work through these items and details to bring you the most essential information to assist in navigating it all. If you have any further questions, please contact your Horton team member via their direct dial number, their email address, or to be directed to your team member call us at 800-383-8283.
Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.