A better understanding of long-haul COVID-19 and workers’ compensation

A better understanding of long-haul COVID-19 and workers’ compensation

Managing long-haul COVID-19 comes with many unknowns. However, as new variants, symptoms, and scientific data emerge, researchers can better understand the condition. When COVID-19 symptoms last beyond a few weeks, it impacts the employee and their ability to work, but it also affects employers and the workers’ compensation process.

Though new cases continued to decline this year, the COVID claims that Medlogix is managing have changed significantly. For example, today about 80% of the work comp COVID cases have a long-haul diagnosis compared to 2020 and 2021, where long-haul patients only comprised approximately 4.5% of our total work comp COVID claims. 

Understanding “long haul” cases

The signs and symptoms of long-haul COVID are similar to that of an average case. However, when major systems are impacted for an extended period, the effects can cause persistent and/or further complications.

Some of the common long-haul symptoms can include:

  • Persistent abdominal pain, poor digestion, and stomach issues
  • Constant body aches, muscle pain, or general fatigue
  • Lingering coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Prolonged depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping
  • Cognitive limitations such as trouble concentrating

Employee capacity

Earlier this year, Medlogix dedicated a blog post to how the pandemic has impacted staff, spaces, and systems. However, the full scope of physiological impacts of the disease is still unknown. For many patients, physical symptoms last longer than the typical days or weeks one might expect. Long haul COVID patients can continue to experience dysfunction of body systems—particularly in the lungs and possibly affecting the liver, kidneys, heart, skin, brain, and nervous system—months after their infection.

The psychological and emotional impacts of chronic suffering and continuous fear can be debilitating for some. Research has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder is increasingly linked to COVID-19 cases for a myriad of reasons – the most prevalent being connected to patients who endured intubation as part of their intensive care in the hospital. This is just one of the many ways employee capacities can be limited after the initial COVID diagnosis.

Workers’ compensation

As you might imagine, employees whose symptoms do not resolve will likely need to continue treating with multiple specialists. And when the heart and lungs are impacted, many will continue receiving treatment with specialists in pulmonology and cardiology long after receiving a negative test.

The role of a nurse case manager has never been more critical. The varying conditions, severity, and the patient’s history should be assessed and managed closely. Referrals should be prioritized according to each clinicians’ familiarity with long-haul, with each specific case and the specific, persistent symptoms being at the forefront of decision-making.

Common specialties and testing connected with long-haul include:

  • Cardiologists
  • Pulmonologists
  • Behavior health specialists
  • Neurologists
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapists
  • Primary care physicians

Employee eligibility for ongoing workers’ compensation benefits follows the standard process but with challenging variables. That is why it is essential for all COVID patients to establish a timeline, contact trace, and consider state-specific workers’ comp regulations.

Legal precedent

The federal government considers long-haul COVID a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The legislation calls for reasonable accommodation to employees who claim disability. The Department of Justice states that long-haul COVID will be considered a disability “if the person’s condition or any of its symptoms is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

When filing a claim, there are important distinctions between short-term disability and workers’ compensation. Therefore it’s critical that employers and employees understand the differences of both to ensure they are applying for the correct benefit.

Medlogix continues to manage long haul COVID cases through our integrated technology solutions, expert medical resources, and exceptional execution. Even in the most challenging times, we strive to improve the productivity and the medical and financial outcomes of our customers and their clients.

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