October 13, 2022 – It’s a devastating series of setbacks for long-term Covid patients. First, they show the debilitating symptoms of their condition. Then they are forced to give up their jobs or drastically cut back their hours as symptoms persist. And then, for many, they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance.
While not all COVID patients are long debilitated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continuous scanning On a long COVID, a quarter of adults have been found to have a long COVID Report that it affects greatly their daily living activities.
Estimates have shown that COVID for a long time has affected the lives of anywhere from anywhere 16 million to 34 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
While physical data is still limited, the Kaiser Family Foundation Analytics It found that more than half of adults with long-term COVID who worked before contracting the virus are now either unemployed or working fewer hours.
According to the data of the Household Pulse Survey of the Statistics Bureau, among the estimates 16 million Working-age adults who are currently suffering from COVID for a long time, 2 million to 4 million of them are unemployed because of their symptoms. The cost of those lost wages ranges from $170 billion a year to as much as $230 billion, the Census Bureau says. Given that approximately 155 million Americans If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, the care of working-age adults may be under serious threat.
“Millions of people are now affected by the prolonged Covid-19 virus, all too often with an inability to work,” says Megan Cole Abraham, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy and Management at Boston University. Director of the school’s Medicaid Policy Lab. “And since a lot of people get health insurance coverage through employer-sponsored coverage, not being able to work anymore means you may not be able to access the health insurance you had before.”
The CDC defines prolonged COVID as a wide range of health conditions, including malaise, fatigue, shortness of breath, mental health problems, problems with the part of the nervous system that controls body functions, and more.
Gwen Bishop was working remotely in the human resources department at the University of Washington Medical Centers when she contracted COVID-19. When the infection passed, Bishop, 39, thought she would start feeling healthy enough to go back to work — but that didn’t happen.
She says, “When I was logging into work and trying to read my emails, it was like they were written in Greek. It didn’t make any sense and was incredibly stressful.” .
This is in line with what researchers have found about nervous system issues that people with COVID have reported for a long time. People who have survived acute COVID infection mentioned Permanent problems with sensory and motor functions, brain fog, and memory problems.
Bishop, who was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in elementary school, said another complication she got from her long-term COVID illness was a new intolerance to stimulants like coffee and the ADHD medication, Vyvanse, which were a normal part of her daily life.
“Every time I take ADHD medication or drink a cup of coffee, I have a panic attack until it goes away,” Bishop says. “Vyvanse is a long-acting stimulant, so it’s going to be a full day of endless panic attack.”
In order to receive approved medical leave, Bishop needed to obtain documentation by a certain date from her doctor’s office that confirmed her long-running COVID diagnosis. I was able to get some extensions, but Bishop says that with the burden being placed on our medical systems, getting to the doctor through my employer’s insurance has been taking much longer than expected. She says that by the time she got an appointment, she had already been fired from her job for missing out on so much work. The emails she provided showing exchanges between her and her employer confirm her story. Without her health insurance, her appointment would not be covered by this provider.
In July 2021, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued directive Recognition of prolonged COVID-19 as a disability “if a person’s condition or symptom is a ‘physical or mental’ impairment that results in a ‘significant limitation’ of one or more major life activities.”
But accessing disability benefits has not been easy for people who have had COVID for a long time. On top of having to leave work for 12 months before being able to qualify for Social Security disability insurance, some of those who applied say they had to battle it out to actually access disability insurance. The Social Security Administration has not yet disclosed how many long-time COVID-cited applications have so far been rejected.
David Barnett, a former Seattle-area bartender in his early 40s, contracted COVID-19 in March 2020. Prior to his injury, he spent much of his time working on his feet, bodybuilding, and hiking with his partner. But for the past three years or so, just going for a walk has been quite a challenge. He says he has spent much of his life after COVID either confined to a seat or confined to a bed due to his symptoms.
He currently works on his partner’s health insurance plan but is still responsible for shared appointments, appointments, and out-of-network treatments. Not being able to water anymore, he started a GoFundMe account and dug into his personal savings. He says he has applied for food vouchers and is preparing to sell his truck. Barnett applied for disability in March of this year, but says he was denied benefits by the Social Security Administration and hired a lawyer to appeal.
He runs a 24-hour online support group on Zoom for people who have been suffering from COVID for a long time and says no one in his close circle has had access to disability payments.
Alba Azola, MD, co-director of Johns Hopkins Medical School’s post-COVID-19 team, says at least half of her patients require some level of accommodations to return to work; Most can, if given the proper accommodations, such as switching to a job that can be done sitting, or with standing for a limited time. But there are still patients who have become severely disabled due to prolonged COVID symptoms.
“Work is part of people’s identity. People who are severely disabled, all they want to do is go back to work and their normal lives.”
Many long-time COVID patients on Azola are unable to return to their original jobs. She says they often have to find new jobs that are better suited to their new realities. One of the patients, a nurse and mother of five who previously worked in a facility where she contracted COVID-19, was unemployed for 9 months after being infected. She eventually lost her job, and Azola says the patient’s employer was reluctant to provide her with any housing. The patient was finally able to find a different job as a nurse coordinator where she does not have to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time.
Ge Bai, PhD, professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says COVID’s long novelty and ongoing uncertainty raise questions for health insurance providers.
“There is no well-defined pathway to treat or cure this condition,” Bay says. “Currently, employers have discretion to decide when or not a condition is covered. So people who have had COVID for a long time have a risk of not having their treatments covered.”