PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Fire departments in Arizona went straight to the state Capitol Monday after a workers' compensation insurance company said their firefighters would not receive coverage if they contracted COVID-19 on the job.
A voicemail was sent to Arizona's Family confirming that's what 7710 Insurance said, but the company is now admitting they made a mistake.
But fire departments are still waiting for that confirmation themselves.
It was last Tuesday, March 17, when the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority got a voicemail from 7710 insurance.
“At this time, 7710 is not considering paying indemnity and benefits for people who are placed in quarantine. We are viewing it as, um, part of the hazards of life which the general public is exposed,” the woman said on the voicemail.
And the employee reiterated that at the end of the message.
“But as of right now, we are not considering paying any indemnity or lost time or medical benefits for this,” she said.
“I can tell you there was a lot of frustration on behalf of our responders,” said Fire Chief Scott Freitag of the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority.
Then another department here in the Valley, Arizona Fire & Medical Authority, confirmed 7710 told them that coverage for COVID-19 was questionable due to difficulty determining where the employee contracted the virus. So Chief Freitag sent a letter to the Arizona Legislature Monday expressing concerns with firefighters on the front lines of the pandemic.
“My department is under the assumption that they are not covering us to any exposures to coronavirus,” he said. “We have not heard anything different.”
But 7710 told Arizona’s Family they will cover coronavirus treatment if a firefighter contracts it from work exposure. They followed up sending this new statement:
“Our employee, who has been on leave since early this month, was mistaken and not familiar with company policy. If a firefighter we cover contracts coronavirus due to a work exposure, 7710 is committed to covering their needs, including medical treatment and temporary disability.”
“It seems like they have an issue throughout their organization with people being up to speed on what their policies are,” said Freitag.
The fire chief said it's great if the company has changed its tune, but the departments need to officially be notified by 7710.
“I really need them to reach back out to me and say, ‘Hey look, we were mistaken in the information we provided,'” he said.
Arizona’s Family wanted to find out what other workers comp insurance companies in the Valley were doing if a firefighter contracted COVID-19 from the job, so we reached out to CopperPoint Insurance who issued us this statement:
“As with all workers’ compensation claims, CopperPoint makes coverage determinations on a case-by-case basis. Arizona law permits workers’ compensation coverage of infectious diseases, provided a relationship is demonstrated between the illness and the individual’s work duties.”
- CopperPoint Insurance Companies