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Arkansas Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Statutes Due to COVID-19

The state of Arkansas, through Governor Asa Hutchinson, has amended its workers’ compensation statutes by way of an executive order, EO 20-19 to be exact. The EO which was issued on April 13, 2020, was intended to temporarily suspend certain parts of the workers’ compensation law. It also aims to soften the burden of proof for first responders and front-line health care workers when they claim workers’ compensation benefits when they contract COVID-19 on the job.

But even with the easing of the burden of proof, EO 20-19 does not foster a presumption of compensability to these workers if they contract the coronavirus disease.

The temporary change stands until the governor lifts the state of emergency in Arkansas.

On April 21, 2020, Governor Hutchinson issued an emergency executive order, EO 20-22 to include the Arkansas National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who are on state active duty in the COVID-19 workers’ compensation coverage.

Furthermore, this particular executive order aims to expand the definition of a front-line health care worker to include health care professionals who provide these services:

Treat, diagnose, care or mitigate COVID-19

Assess and care individuals who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or

Other jobs that the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission considers as

COVID-19-related services that are consistent with EO-20-19.                  

This executive order gives medical management companies like the workers comp provider network in Arkansas businesses prefer – the right to honor workers’ compensation claims from COVID-19 front liners.

On June 15, 2020, Governor Hutchinson issued yet another executive order, EO 20-35 which aims to provide remedies for workers covered by workers’ compensation law to receive workers’ compensation benefits concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

EO 20-35 also aims to classify COVID-19 as an “occupational disease” under the workers’ compensation law. The executive order also intends to exclude COVID-19 in the prohibition of compensation for ordinary diseases of life which the general public is exposed to.

Before the COVID-19-related executive orders were issued, Arkansas law defined occupational disease as a condition or infection that arises out of or during employment. According to this law, to claim workers’ compensation, the claimant should show proof that the disease is connected to his/her employment.

The substance of this definition is what Executive Orders 20-19, 20-22, and 20-35 aim to expand or amend.   

Here are the details of the objectives of the Executive Orders:

Executive Order 20-19

This EO addresses certain elements of the law which addresses communicable diseases that infect first responders and health care workers:

Arkansas law honors claims for communicable diseases if the employee contracted the disease in the course of his/her employment, or if they are living near a hospital or health facility where people infected with that disease are receiving treatment. The EO 20-19  suspends this rule specifically for health care workers and first responders.

Ordinary diseases of life, under the Arkansas law, are not compensable, but this is

also suspended by EO-20-19 for health care workers and first responders.

EO 20‐19 will expire when the state of emergency in the state of Arkansas is lifted or

when the governor rescinds the order.

This executive order implies that any reputable workers compensation provider network is allowed to honor applications for workers’ compensation benefits from first responders and health care workers who can show proof that they contracted COVID-19 on the job.

Executive Order 20-22

On April 21, 2020, Governor Hutchinson issued a follow-up emergency order expanding the definition of health care workers and first responders. This EO aims to include air personnel and national guard soldiers who are on active duty to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits should they contract COVID-19 on the job.

EO 20-22 has made COVID-19 workers’ compensation benefits available not only to health care workers and first responders but to airmen and national guard soldiers on duty. This means that if any of these groups of workers contract COVID-19 on the job, they may seek the help of a trusted medical management company like the workers comp provider network Arkansas employers recommend – for expedited treatment.

Executive Order 20-35

Executive Order 20-35 is intended to amend EO-22. This executive order aims to include COVID-19 in the definition of “unusual an unprecedented incident” as a possible major cause of physical harm.  It also excludes COVID-19 and other diseases associated with SARS-CoV-2 from the prohibition of compensation for ordinary diseases of life.

Executive Order 20-35 also emphasizes that workers’ compensation is the only remedy for workplace injuries during the pandemic. It assures Arkansas employers who continue to do business during the pandemic that they are immune to civil liabilities from their employees if the latter is injured or sick in the course of their employment.

For COVID-19 front liners in Arkansas like first responders, health care workers, air men, national guard soldiers, and other professionals involved in the treatment and care of individuals infected with coronavirus, you can now avail of the workers’ compensation benefits if you contract the disease on the job. It’s a benefit the state has given you for your heroic role in our battle against a deadly pandemic.

It’s not easy to be exposed to a disease with such magnitude. But it’s a career you’ve committed to doing. Always be sure to keep yourself protected at all times, and be prepared for the worst. Always make sure that a trustworthy workers compensation provider network like Direct Pay Provider is ready to assist you whenever you need our services.

Call us at (866) 214-5920.

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