Long-term Covid medical costs average $9,500 in first six months: Study

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Long-term Covid accounts for $9,500 in total average medical costs for workers and their employers in the six months after a diagnosis, according to a study by Nomi Health.

Long-term Covid is a chronic illness that can lead to potentially debilitating symptoms that can last months or years. It can affect anyone who has an initial infection with Covid-19, regardless of age or health.

Up to 30% of Americans who have Covid have developed long-term symptoms; that means up to 23 million Americans have been affected, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the Nomi Health study, the associated medical costs result largely from doctor visits, hospital stays, and a higher likelihood of prescriptions for steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory medications, among other things.

Long-term Covid patients are “vagrants of the health care system,” said Mark Newman, CEO and co-founder of Nomi Health. “They’re like nomads through the health care system, trying to figure out, ‘What’s wrong with me?'”

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Here’s a look at more stories about the complexities and implications of the long Covid:

The health system analyzed 20.3 million medical claims for 4.7 million workers with health insurance during the first half of 2022.

Their estimate of medical costs only takes into account workers who have received a lengthy diagnosis of Covid.

But getting a diagnosis can be a long and expensive process for many people. There is no test to tell patients whether they have long-term Covid, meaning doctors often only conclude that someone has it after a battery of tests that rule out other illnesses. Because there is no known cure, treatment generally focuses on continued management of symptoms.

“There are diseases and conditions with many obvious answers, and the long Covid is not one of them,” Newman said.

In a separate study, Harvard University economist David Cutler estimated that prolonged Covid costs patients $9,000 a year in medical expenses. As with Nomi’s estimate, Cutler’s is a total cost before health insurance cost-sharing and out-of-pocket limits that may apply.

Patients with long-term Covid accrued $9,000 in additional average medical costs per person compared to similar people who had Covid but no long-term follow-up symptoms, Nomi Health found.

Medical expenses are not the only financial cost that the affected person may suffer. For example, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people are out of work or have reduced their hours, resulting in lost income.

Nomi Health found that employees with prolonged Covid are 3.6 times more likely to miss work for medical reasons.

“This is an ongoing tax and burden on our society that we will be dealing with for decades,” Newman said.

Cutler at Harvard University dear, based on confirmed covid cases, this long covid would cost the US economy $3.7 trillion in increased medical spending, reduced income, and reduced quality of life. That total cost is equivalent to that of the Great Recession, Cutler said, which before the pandemic-era recession was the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Proactive strategies to help with medical costs

There are some considerations that can Help manage the long-term financial consequences of Covid.

“It’s so painful when you have an illness and all of a sudden there’s no money coming in,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and physician. he told CNBC.

McClanahan said workers who are not already sick should enroll in disability insurance programs during their open enrollment period at work, if their employer offers the benefit.

Doing so can provide a financial buffer if someone has to lose work for a short or extended period due to a long Covid. These group policies offer guaranteed coverage at low cost, but there are often exclusions and limitations that are worth checking.

People also need to be aware when choosing a health plan. For example, some plans come with lower monthly premiums, but have higher deductibles and other costs, as well as a thinner network of doctors available to patients. Conversely, plans with higher monthly premiums may have smaller deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. and a broader list of specialists at their disposal, perhaps without a referral from a primary care physician. Leaving a health plan’s network can lead to significant costs.

Health plans with larger networks of doctors and specialists can serve a long-term Covid patient well, said McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., and a member of CNBC’s Advisory Board.

“There are so many variables you have to consider,” he said.

Some aspects of health care, such as prescription drugs, are more expensive through insurance, meaning it could benefit someone to shop around and use resources like GoodRx, McClanahan said. For example, a drug for $100 through insurance could be $4 through the right pharmacy with a GoodRx coupon, he said.

Why Covid could cost the US nearly $4 trillion

While raiding retirement savings early isn’t generally a good idea, there are tax-efficient ways patients can consider withdrawing money from an individual retirement account if they need funds, McClanahan said. It can be helpful to talk to an accountant about these options, he said.

For example, a saver who is under the age of 59 1/2 generally owes a 10% tax penalty on top of income taxes when he withdraws money from an IRA.

However, there is an exception to this 10% penalty in some cases involving significant, unreimbursed medical expenses. Those people would have to document their medical expenses and still owe income tax on the IRA withdrawal, McClanahan said.

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