As of August 2019, Louisiana's first responders will now normally get workers' compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder. They're no longer expected to have to fight insurance companies to get the condition acknowledged as a work-related condition, a task that previously would have been nearly impossible.
In recent years, suicide and divorce rates have been significantly higher for first responders than for most other professionals. This change in Louisiana law will hopefully improve the health and wellbeing of the state's first responders overall.
What is a presumptive occupational disease?
Workers' compensation covers employees when they're hurt doing their job, such as a house painter falling off a ladder at work. In many cases, however, the link between one patient's medical case and their profession is never certain.
For example, firefighting's frequently toxic and extreme conditions carry a high risk of many kinds of cancer. However, you can almost never say a specific cancerous tumor arose from responding to one call to a specific address on a particular day, as you might with a gunshot wound suffered by a police officer.
That's why state laws commonly include statutes listing profession/health condition combinations for which workers' compensation coverage is a given. If the insurance company wants to deny compensation, it has the burden of proving the condition was not job-related. If patients do certain jobs long enough, insurers should presume certain health problems are job-related.
First responders now covered for PTSD
The new law adds "posttraumatic stress injury" to the list of presumptively occupational conditions for employees of local emergency medical services, local police departments, local fire departments (as well as volunteer firefighters), and state police. Many have hailed the law as the beginning of a new phase for mental health awareness in these professions in addition to improving coverage.
Louisiana now joins 35 other states with similar laws, all enacted in recent years. These states are building experience implementing these policies and with insurers occasionally denying claims. Also, some states cover a wider or narrower segment of the first-responder community and workforce, notably including 911 and other dispatchers. Legal battles and legislative initiatives are likely to continue across the country.