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    Long COVID Costs: A Reason for Employers to Remain Vigilant

    • Published
    • 9 September 2022
    • Category
    • General

    The pandemic has taken a toll in many ways. While preventing the spread of illness and potentially saving lives are the highest priority, health care costs are another reason for U.S. employers to remain vigilant about COVID-19 management efforts in the workplace.

    Nomi Health, a national health care company, recently conducted a study that found employers spend more on the minority of long COVID cases than they do on the majority of cases that resolve. In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s June 2022  Household Pulse Survey, over 40 percent of U.S. adults reported having COVID-19 in the past; nearly one in five (19 percent) had long COVID symptoms.

    The study found the likelihood of missing work for medical reasons was 3.6 times higher for employees with long COVID, with significant related productivity loss costs. In addition, the average predicted cost of long COVID care was nearly $9,500 within the first six months of diagnosis, primarily driven by doctor’s visits, hospital stays and prescription medications. In comparison to diabetes, long COVID cost employers an average of $600 more per insured employee than the average diabetes episode in the first half of 2022.

    “While we’d all love to put this pandemic behind us, employers can see the potentially devastating effects of long COVID and its undeniable impact on health care costs and workforce stability,” Mark Newman, founder and CEO of Nomi Health, said in a media release. “Costs will continue to rise. Employers need to act now to support their employees with symptom awareness and care guidance while streamlining medical spending.”

    More About the Study

    Nomi Health reports it reviewed more than 20 million medical claims between January and June 2022 to identify claims for patients with diabetes and those diagnosed with long COVID – any of more than two dozen symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a COVID-19 infection. When examining long COVID-associated conditions including breathing abnormalities, malaise and fatigue, cough, throat and chest pain, and respiratory failure, researchers found the average per-member employer spend was $2,654, more than 26 percent higher than the average diabetes care spend.

    In addition, when baseline COVID claims were compared to long COVID claims for thousands of members, the following increases were identified:

    • 203 percent in medical spending per-member per-month within the first six months following an initial COVID-19 diagnosis, resulting in a $9,000 per case increase in medical spending compared to similar patients who had COVID but no subsequent symptoms of long COVID.
    • 421 percent in inpatient hospital spend within the first six months following initial COVID-19 diagnosis, equivalent to an increase of $6,000 compared to similar patients without long COVID.
    • 126 percent in diagnostic laboratory and imaging procedures.
    • 110 percent in outpatient visits for patients.

    Findings from the long COVID retrospective cohort study are based on an anonymized, aggregated set of 20.3 million medical claims for over 4.68 million insured members. The data set identified 252,561 members with diabetes care episodes and 6,988 members with post-COVID syndrome.

    Free Infectious Disease Prevention Webinar!

    Join WorkCare on Sept. 14 for our free webinar on Infectious Disease Prevention: COVID, Monkeypox and the Flu, featuring WorkCare Associate Medical Director Sarah Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. Register here.

    Did You Know?

    WorkCare offers a full suite of COVID-19 prevention and management solutions as part of its comprehensive occupational health portfolio. Click here for COVID-related resources. Contact us at info@workcare.com to learn more.

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