And, despite the doom and gloom from the headlines, the story in Florida workers’ compensation claims is somewhat encouraging. In fact, the 568 new COVID-`9 work injury claims in October 2020 was the lowest since February. Note that this figure for October will grow. Some infections from that month will not be in the data set, as they have not been reported or documented fully at the time of this latest report.
For example, the November 2020 report says that March dates of accident related to COVID-19 totaled 2,264. When the initial report was published in June, that figure was 1,923; in July 1,978; in August 2,227; in September 2,242; in October 2,261. Thus, in the latest report this month, the March total had increased by 3. That adjustment to the March data coming about ten months after March. This merely illustrates that there is some probable time lag in reporting and documenting. Despite the statutory requirement for timely reporting of claims, medicine and science may sometimes require time to conclude either diagnosis or causality. Therefore, the 568 total in October 2020 may reasonably be expected to increase as time passes. However, the figure is nonetheless encouraging.
It is also somewhat encouraging that the total volume of COVID-19 compensable death claims thus far is 33. Certainly, one is too many. However, with the death rates reported elsewhere in the U.S. population, this is a relatively low volume. Also of note, as of the November 2020 report, there are no death claims with accident dates in either September or October 2020.
Women (55%) continue to predominate over men (44%) regarding claim volume. The total claims by women is 12,805 compared to men at 10,351, a difference of 2,454. A notable portion of the difference comes in the 50-59 age group in which there are 2,642 women and 1,749 men, a difference of 893. The distinction in the 60-69 group is also noteworthy, this is 1,180 women and 509 men, a difference of 671. In the age group 70 years or older, there are 164 women and only 80 men, a difference of 84. The combination of differences in these three age groups (893 + 671 + 84) is 1,684 which accounts for much of the overall 2,454 disparity between men and women overall.
The report documents a total of 23,452 claims for COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2. Over two-thirds (69%) of those are “closed” claims, 16,098. The total expended on the “closed” claims is $17,416,269, or an average of $1,082 each. The “open” claims (7,354) represent expenditures of $23,429,269, or an average of $3,186. It is likely that a significant portion of the “closed” claims were of minimal expense. Some may even have been reported by obligation, and then closed immediately due to patient recovery, negative testing results, etc. Some of those may have represented expenditure of zero.
Overall, COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 claims remain a significant portion of the overall lost-time claims in Florida. The 23,452 claims represents 31.1% of all lost-time work claims in Florida since January 2020. This is of more significance in recognition of the claim numbers being very insignificant in the first Quarter of 2020 (January through March; 2,301 total in that period). The severity of COVID-19 claims, overall, is seemingly dissimilar from other workers’ compensation claims. Despite representing 31.1% of the lost-time claims, those 23, 452 represent only 8% of the total paid on lost-time claims in Florida during 2020. The frequency belies the severity in terms of cost at least as of this time.
The "long COVID" remains unknown however. Discussed in the October Update, the "long COVID" is a subset of infections that are not demonstrating anticipated recovery consistent with expectations. The Center for Disease Control has updated its site with discussion of the potential for longer term implications, as has Mayo and other health systems. It is entirely practical to consider that the long-term impacts and costs of an infection may not be apparent until months or years has passed. The implications of the Florida 120 day rule and similar statutory provisions may be significant in years to come.
The COVID “severity” in present dollar terms is consistent, as illustrated in this chart. It is noteworthy that 95% of the population of COVID-19 claims are in the $0 to $4,999 range, with a mean cost of $703 each. The total for those claims, $15,591,157, representing 95% of the claims, is only 38% of the expenditures/payments.
Of the 23,452 claims to date through October, 10,424 (44%) have been denied by the respective employer or carrier in whole or part. It is likely that the expenditures on this population is well below the average in the lowest tier above ($0 to $4,999), and on many such denied claims the expenditures may well be $0.00. It is likely that this “denied” population is skewing the average expenditure in this lowest tier downward.
The ten Florida counties with the highest volume of COVID claims represents about 61% of the Florida population. At least 31% of the workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19 are from Miami (Dade County). The county has 2.717 million residents, which is Florida (21.48). The county represents 13% of the state population, but 31% of these claims. Broward County has a population of 1.953 million, and accounts for 9% of the population overall. Broward County represents 8% of the COVID-19 work injury claims.
The distinction between population share and COVID-19 frequency is notable in Miami. Thirty-three (49%) of Florida’s sixty-seven counties have less than 100 COVID-19 claims each. Four of those have less than ten claims, and one (Desoto) has none. There are significant distinctions between various Florida geographic regions and between the urban and rural environments.
In all, the figures perhaps indicate that employers are doing well with protections from COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2. Certainly, the growth in claim volumes is in contrast to the overall diagnosis volume across the state. There is some chance that fewer people are prone to reporting claims. Or, it may be that frequency of work-related infection is decreasing. Perhaps employer efforts at sanitation, awareness, and best practices are succeeding?