Over the last few weeks I have answered multiple calls from agencies unsure how to best approach worker’s compensation coverage for firefighters, medics, EMT’s, and police during the Coronavirus crisis. Given the proliferation of the virus and its ability to spread quickly through minimal contact, employers and employees alike wondered how proof of a workplace exposure could ever be proven or disproven in the new normal these emergency workers now inhabit. Fortunately, a portion of that unknown area has been addressed and some of the guesswork removed. 

Acting pursuant to powers under the Governor’s Executive Orders 20-02 and 20-04, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Division of Worker’s Compensation, has enacted Emergency Rule 8 CSR 50-5.005. This rule creates a presumption that any First Responder (as defined by RSMO 287.243) who has contracted or is quarantined for Covid-19 is presumed to have contracted the disease at work. Under the Emergency Rule firefighters and EMT’s will be presumed covered by worker’s compensation if any of the following occur: 
Continue Reading Missouri Enacts Emergency Rule Providing Presumptive Covid 19 Coverage for First Responders

Confusion abounds regarding the sharing of protected patient information (PPI) of a Covid-19 patient to first responders.  As EMS providers, fire departments, and police officers work in the field managing public emergencies, exposures should be expected and anticipated.  Organizational mitigation efforts have hinged on identifying “actual” Covid-19 patients, primarily through hospital testing after patient delivery.  However, the exchange of information from hospital to first response organization has been hampered in many instances due to HIPAA compliance concerns. Hospitals and EMS/Fire understand the process of information transfer related to potential exposures under the Ryan White Act, but the current situation is a different animal. 

The HHS issued this memo clarifying this information transfer, and ease the concerns of those covered by the HIPAA rules.  The takeaway from the memo, and the explanatory article from Ayanna Alexander at Bloomberg Law  makes clear the PPI may be shared so long as one of the conditions for sharing PPI is met. As listed in the HHS memo, a good faith belief the disclosure is “necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public” may justify the disclosure. The other big takeaway is this—CHECK YOUR STATE LAW.  Laws vary from state to state as they relate to privacy, confidential data, mandatory disclosure, and emergency declarations.  
Continue Reading HHS Offers Clarity for First Responders — Yes, Hospitals Can Provide Info on Covid 19 Exposed Patients