Counties Oppose Making Mental Health Illnesses Presumptive Diseases

On February 21, 2023, Associate Policy Director Brianna January testified before the Senate Finance Committee in opposition to SB 0406 – Workers’ Compensation – Occupational Disease Presumptions – First Responders.

The House Economic Matters Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, HB 0335, on February 28.

SB 0406 stipulates that first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are presumed under qualifying circumstances to have an occupational disease suffered in the line of duty, and are compensable under workers’ compensation law. Counties wholeheartedly support our first responders, who unquestionably work under potentially harrowing conditions. That said, this bill codifies in law the assumption that all qualifying PTSD benefit claims are work-related, a standard that is as unreasonable as it is costly.

From the MACo Testimony:

County opposition to the bill is not opposition to PTSD claims being determined as work-related and therefore compensable. The opposition is to the bill’s presumption of compensability, which would place an undue burden on counties as the major employer of these professions, with potentially staggering fiscal impact on local government. No state has created this PTSD presumption. Maryland’s workers’ compensation law already creates a nearly “perfect storm” where a series of statutory presumptions prompt consideration of workplace exposures leading to compensability. Maryland’s courts have effectively ruled that these presumptions are irrebuttable in compensability proceedings, so the outcome of presumption-related cases is virtually assured. Adding even more tenuous categories to this already biased structure would overburden public employers, causing them to shoulder burden for an even longer list of employee concerns that never arose from the workplace.

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