You have been off work for some time following a work-related injury when you receive a letter from your employer. The letter adds insult to the injury. In it, your employer states that because you have been off of work for so long, it will no longer pay its share of your monthly health insurance premiums. You have already fallen behind on your monthly bill as your weekly workers’ compensation wage loss check does not seem to go as far as your paycheck did. As you crumple up the letter in disgust, you wonder whether your employer can do this.
Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario. I am asked this question at least one time per week by prospective clients. The sad news is that the answer is usually yes — your employer can do this.
The workers’ compensation statute is a creation of the Minnesota Legislature. And, as the Legislature has not required ongoing health insurance for injured workers, employers have no obligation to continue to pay injured workers’ health insurance premiums – once that person is no longer working.
If the injured worker is a union member, there may be some additional protection under the collective bargaining agreement. However, most employees in the State of Minnesota do not work under a contract. Instead, they are what is known as, “an at-will employee”. Payment of health insurance premiums by the employer are thus governed by the employer’s policies. As long as those policies are administered even-handedly, there is no obligation to pay the employee’s health insurance premium if that person is no longer working.
This result can cause significant financial hardship for the injured worker. Currently, there is no good remedy in place. Health insurance is expensive. This potential hardship serves as one additional example of how the Minnesota workers’ compensation statute fails to make an injured worker whole — especially after a significant injury.