White House officials on Tuesday announced new plans to address the impact of long COVID, a constellation of prolonged symptoms including brain fog and shortness of breath that can occur after a COVID-19 infection.
People with long COVID, who are sometimes called “long-haulers,” report a range of symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, pain, headaches, and shortness of breath. The condition is also referred to as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).
Estimates vary as to how many people have long COVID. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that more than 23 million Americans have PASC, while preliminary research out of Denmark found that 30% of people who had tested positive for the virus had at least one symptom 6 to 12 months later.
It’s thought at least 1 million Americans aren’t able to work as a result of post-COVID symptoms, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The Biden administration’s plan is wide-reaching and comes the day after Senate bargainers reached agreement on a $10 billion COVID-19 treatment package.
The plan aims to fund research into how health care providers can best care for people with long COVID, establish more care centers that will focus on caring for those with long COVID, educate health care providers about long COVID, and strengthen requirements for insurers to cover the costs of care associated with long COVID.
It also builds on the work that other federal agencies have done to address long COVID over the past year or so. HHS and the Justice Department issued guidance last summer that says long COVID can sometimes be considered a disability. The National Institutes of Health is funding a study examining the long-term effects of COVID-19 among 15,000 people. Even an ICD-10 code has been established for long COVID. (This is a kind of diagnosis and billing code used in electronic medical records.)
The administration said Tuesday that the interagency national research action plan on long COVID will be spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that oversees the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Medicare and Medicaid.