By Tracy Waller, Esq., MPH, MCDD staff attorney
The implications of being diagnosed with COVID-19, or testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, can last long beyond the initial infection. The five most common post-COVID-19 conditions across all ages, from most to least common, are pain, breathing difficulties, hyperlipidemia, malaise and fatigue, and hypertension, according to a white paper, “A Detailed Study of Patients with Long-Haul COVID,” published on June 15, 2021, by FAIR Health, Inc., a nonprofit organization.
The paper identifies patients who exhibit post-COVID-19 symptoms for more than 30 days as having long-haul COVID, long COVID or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC). The study examined the health records of nearly two million people who tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. While 23.2% of those individuals had at least one post-COVID-19 condition, 19% of individuals included in the study who were asymptomatic during their COVID-19 infection still exhibited a post-COVID-19 condition.
Many hospitals and health systems have created COVID-19 recovery programs or post-COVID-19 clinics, including The Johns Hopkins Post-Acute COVID-19 Team (JH PACT) and the Pediatric Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Clinic at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “Some children continue to experience debilitating symptoms that affect their ability to participate in school and other daily activities long after their acute COVID-19 infection,” say Laura Malone, MD, PhD, and Amanda Morrow, MD, co-directors of the Institute’s Post-COVID-19 Rehabilitation Clinic. “We use a multidisciplinary rehabilitation-based approach to help manage their symptoms and improve function.”
“[L]ong COVID can be identified as a disability under Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557),” they add.
Identifying a person with long COVID-19 as having a disability under federal law is only part of the puzzle. The National Institute for Health Care Management hosted a webinar on November 17, 2021, on what long COVID-19 means for patients and the healthcare system. The symptoms of long COVID-19 vary, and because COVID-19 is relatively new, there is no “one size fits all” approach to identifying long COVID-19. The healthcare system has yet to catch up. People across the country who continue to struggle with recovering from long COVID-19 face another obstacle: disability benefits. Comprehensive plans and more access to treatment, physical therapy and rehabilitation services are needed to lessen the burdens experienced by people dealing with long COVID-19.