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Workers’ comp bill for vaccine injuries heads to House

Feb. 1, 2022 Updated Tue., Feb. 1, 2022 at 6:38 p.m.

By William L. Spence Lewiston Tribune

BOISE – Employees injured by mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations would be eligible for workers’ compensation payments under legislation that advanced to the House floor Monday.

House Bill 464 is co-sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R- Meridian, and Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa.

Idaho employees can already receive compensation for injuries related to workplace vaccines.

However, Skaug, a workers’ compensation attorney, said there has been confusion regarding COVID-19. Some vaccine injury claims are being denied, even in cases when an employer agrees they should be covered.

“This is happening,” he said. “We get a lot of these different claims. Most of them are minor. People call up and say they had a reaction to the shot, they missed a couple of weeks of work, but … the insurance company decided not to cover (their claim). So there’s a little bit of a fight and it gets taken care of.”

HB 464 would eliminate any confusion and avoid the fight, he said.

“Insurance adjusters would see this and say, ‘Oh, this needs to be covered,’ ” Skaug said. “I think there will be less litigation than we have now.”

The bill applies specifically to workers who are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by their employer, and who later suffer some type of adverse reaction, Skaug said. It doesn’t matter whether they wanted the vaccine in the first place, or only got it to keep their job.

A handful of people testified in opposition to the bill, saying it essentially codifies an employer’s right to require vaccines.

“This doesn’t seem like it respects the individual rights of the people of Idaho,” said Craig Campbell, of Boise.

Campbell said thousands of Idahoans have suffered some type of reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, and a few have even died.

“This bill doesn’t fix that,” he said. “You have to fix the system that damages citizens in the first place, not compensate them for damage after it’s done.”

Sarah Clendenon, representing Idaho Health Freedom, described HB 464 as a “crumbs” bill.

“It’s giving our rights to government and then begging for some crumbs back,” she said. “We’re either free people with inherent rights, or we’re slaves who have to come and beg to get some of our freedoms back.”

However, members of the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee saw the bill as an opportunity to ensure that people who are injured by mandatory vaccinations get compensated for any lost wages and medical expenses.

“We’ve had situations where people were injured,” said Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston. “I’m concerned if we don’t do something, they’ll be injured and not covered.”

“This isn’t a bill for or against the COVID vaccination,” Skaug said. “This is about helping people who happen to be injured by the vaccination. … We’ve seen some of these claims paid out, but we’ve also seen some get denied. This bill helps clarify the coverage for someone who’s injured by the vaccine. I think it’s good legislation for all parties involved.”

The bill now heads to the House floor for further action.

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