According to the CDC, individuals infected with COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID. Long COVID can include a wide range of ongoing health problems which can be present for weeks, months, or even years past initial infection.
While research is still being conducted on long COVID, there is recent data from the workers’ comp system on long COVID claims.
The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published a new report that examines the prevalence of long COVID within the workers’ comp system. The analysis includes COVID-19 cases reported with a date of infection between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. For each claim, information was collected on indemnity benefits and payments for medical care that occurred through March 31, 2021.
Among all COVID-19 claims, 7% received treatment for long COVID. The likelihood of long COVID increased with age; workers aged 55 and up made up 10-12% of cases, compared to only 2-4% for those aged 35 or younger. WCRI found no variation in long COVID between genders.
Workers who were hospitalized or had an ICU stay in their first month of infection were the most likely to continue receiving care long-term. Among workers with ICU care, 74% received treatment for long COVID in the post-acute stage of infection. Approximately 49% of these patients continued to receive care three months after infection, decreasing to 44% at the five-month mark.
For workers with a hospitalization stay not in the ICU, 23% received care at the three-month mark, dropping to 20% at the 5-month mark.
Among workers with medical care in the first month after COVID-19 infection, less than 10% (3% of overall COVID-19 patients) required hospitalization or ICU care. Workers that did not require hospitalization had a relatively limited use of medical care. Across workers with one day of medical care, 5% received care for long COVID in the post-acute stage of infection.
Claims with long COVID had higher average medical payments, indemnity benefits, and average durations of temporary disability. Long COVID claims had a 10x difference in average medical payment per claim.
Meanwhile, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) analyzed more than 3,000 established COVID-19 claims received between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022 to ascertain how many claimants developed long COVID, common symptoms, claimants’ experience, and how long COVID has affected various claimant groups.
A total of 5% of COVID-19 claimants developed long COVID, slightly less than the WCRI’s national rate. Approximately 18% of long COVID patients have been unable to return to work for more than a year, with most claimants in this group under the age of 60. However, 40% of claimants with long COVID returned to work within 60 days of infection while still receiving medical treatment for COVID-19.
Nearly all claimants with comorbidities or who were hospitalized for infection experienced long COVID, while essential workers may have long COVID rates higher than available data suggests.
In New York, women were more likely to experience long COVID than men; 37% of female COVID-19 claims developed long COVID, while only 26% of male COVID-19 claims developed long COVID.