The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published Long COVID in the Workers’ Compensation System in 2020 and 2021, a new report that examines the prevalence of long COVID among workers with COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims that occurred between March 2020 and September 2021.
This report was compiled using patient data on medical care and income benefits through the end of March 2022, observing up to 24 months of medical care and income benefits after infection date, across 31 states.
This report provides insights into workers’ recoveries from COVID-19, the prevalence of long COVID among workers, costs of long COVID, and industry characteristics associated with long COVID.
WCRI found that 6% of workers with COVID-19 workers’ comp claims between March 2020 and September 2021 received care for long COVID conditions.
Workers who received more intensive medical interventions during the acute stage of COVID-19 (first month of infection) were more likely to receive care for long COVID conditions, and those claims experienced greater costs. The average medical payment for claims with long COVID (evaluated at an average of 18 months of experience) was $29,000, ten times higher than the average medical payment for COVID-19 claims that did not develop into long COVID.
Among workers who received ICU care, 74% received treatment for long COVID conditions. One year after infection, one in four of these workers still received care for long COVID conditions. The average medical payment for these claims was over $190,000.
Among workers with hospitalization but no ICU care, 46% had treatment for long COVID conditions. One year after infection, one in ten of these workers still received care for long COVID conditions. The average medical payment for these claims was $66,000.
Among workers with two or more days of medical care and no hospitalization, 20% had long COVID conditions.
According to the report, the variety of symptoms that fall within the scope of long COVID include chronic cough, ongoing shortness of breath on exertion, extreme fatigue, chest tightness, chest pain, muscle pains, headache, brain fog, palpitations and/or tachycardia, myalgia, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, insomnia, problems with memory and concentration, and anxiety.
The most common conditions listed on medical bills included:
- Lung conditions, which affected 64% of long COVID claimants
- Heart conditions, which affected a third of long COVID claimants
- Mental health conditions, which affected 12% of long COVID claimants
Finally, the report examines the prevalence of long COVID across several worker characteristics, noting that among all COVID-19 claims:
- The likelihood of developing long COVID increased with age. Only 2-4% of workers under 35 developed long COVID, while 10-12% of workers aged 55 and older developed long COVID
- The rates of long COVID did not vary by rural or urban areas
- The likelihood of receiving care for long COVID did not vary by gender