Long COVID outpaces diabetes in 2022 employer health spending

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Nomi Health said this week that based on a review of claims information, employers spend an average of $2,654.67 per employee diagnosed with long COVID.

The firm said that it conducted an extensive study to examine the costs of long COVID and its associated conditions -- breathing abnormalities, malaise and fatigue, cough, throat and chest pain, and respiratory failure.

Its researchers found per-member employer spending was on average more than 26% higher than the average spending for a diabetes patient, Nomi Health said.

The company added that it reviewed more than 20 million medical claims between January and June 2022 to identify those claims for patients with both diabetes and long COVID -- defined through any of more than two dozen symptoms that linger, recur, or first appear at least one month after a COVID-19 infection.

The study found additional increases in costs for employers and patients. Researchers observed a 203% increase in medical spending per-member per-month within the first six months following initial COVID-19 diagnosis. This increase resulted in a predicted $9,000 per case increase in medical spending compared to spending for similar patients who had COVID but no subsequent symptoms of long COVID.

The study also found a 126% increase in costly diagnostic laboratory and imaging procedures for those diagnosed with long COVID.

Overall, the study had some limitations, the firm noted. For example, it excluded COVID incidents not reported through medical claims, such as cases diagnosed through at-home rapid testing.

Long COVID or post-COVID conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines long COVID, or post-COVID conditions (PCC), as the long-term effects that linger after a patient has been infected by the COVID-19 virus. Such effects may mirror those found in COVID-19 patients, including difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, or difficulty concentrating.

However, it is difficult to predict when and how COVID-19 patients will experience PCC. According to the CDC, the range of symptoms make it difficult to ascertain whether symptoms result from the virus or other health problems.

Research into prediction methods is yielding promising results. For example, in January,researchers from the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB) in Seattle identified four risk factors that could be used to predict which patients with COVID-19 would develop PCC. Later, in July, Bruker launched a long-COVID test that uses nuclear magnetic resonance to test for certain biomarkers that may lead to PCC development.

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