- Adults ages 18 to 64 with post-COVID-19 condition, called PCC or long COVID-19, struggled to access and pay for care compared with other adults, a study by Urban Institute researchers published in JAMA Network Open found.
- Respondents had difficulty finding clinicians and health insurance and struggled to keep up with family medical bills in the previous year. These barriers to care could bring a risk of disability and a worsening of quality of life, the report said.
- Developing clinical protocols and eliminating barriers to health insurance will be necessary to help U.S. patients with PCC navigate a fragmented health system, the study authors wrote.
The goal of the study of 9,484 U.S. adults was to evaluate the relationship of PCC with access and affordability challenges. More than one in five adult respondents with COVID-19 had symptoms lasting more than four weeks. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and musculoskeletal pain.
The report defined PCC as patients self-reporting symptoms that could not be attributed to other conditions or factors and that occurred more than four weeks after the onset of COVID-19.
Even though COVID-19 testing and treatments were covered under the public health emergency, which is set to end May 11, only Medicaid plans extended treatment for PCC.
The researchers recommend spreading out the risks of high costs more broadly across the population.
“In addition, further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of patient experiences in seeking care for PCC symptoms, monitor whether access challenges persist over time, and assess social, economic, and health outcomes associated with unmet needs for care,” the researchers wrote.
The research shows how COVID-19 does not end when a patient tests negative. In fact, the report cited limitations with the data such as restricting self-reported PCC to respondents with a COVID-19 diagnosis or positive test.
“Some respondents who were not diagnosed could have had a COVID-19 infection, and a subset of them may have experienced PCC symptoms,” the report said.
The healthcare access and affordability challenges for adults with self-reported PCC could hinder their long-term health and ability to perform work, according to the researchers. To address the challenges of long COVID patients, the report recommends new research on PCC treatments, distributing clinical care guidelines and regulating insurance practices.