A Closer Look at Legal Rights of Long Covid Patients

In an announcement made by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services in July 2021, long Covid-19 survivors are now protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The announcement came on the 31st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The guidance indicates that Long Covid is classified as a disability when the person has physical or mental symptoms, causing an impairment that substantially limits any activities.

President Biden recently announced that people with long COVID should qualify for disability protection and benefits, including housing, unemployment benefits, and health care. However, disability coverage seems like a distant dream for some people who have a hard time proving their medical condition.

Long COVID After-effects

In their recent article, the New York times approaches the effects of long COVID on some people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a high number of patients continue to have symptoms and seek treatment for conditions that include breathing difficulties, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, depression, anxiety, and suffering from “brain fog” long after getting Covid-19.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation recently announced that the number of Americans currently suffering from long Covid is hard to estimate. Still, they believe it could be anything between 3 and 10 million.

Other studies show that about 10% of those contracting Covid-19 will become long Covid sufferers, which will lead to the largest increase in the number of disabled people, according to disability rights activists.

Protection Under the Disabilities Act

Advocates were asking for guidance for Covid disabilities for quite some time, and both recent developments and announcements were welcomed. Bloomberg law reported that Arc’s senior director of public policy, Nicole Jorwic announced, “It makes us happy that the White House recognizes the disabilities suffered by many COVID long haulers by offering them protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Some of the accommodations for those qualified as long Covid sufferers include that anyone with dizziness is allowed to be accompanied by their service animal and allowing students with difficulty concentrating extra time to complete tests.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Long Covid

From early June, the CDC released guidelines to help doctors with diagnosing and treating long Covid. However, this is a challenge because the long-term symptoms are not fully understood yet since they include a broad spectrum of symptoms.

These symptoms often have physical, social, and psychological consequences, leading to functional limitations that often challenge these patients’ quality of life and wellness.

The consequences are that patients often struggle to get cover for their medical treatment from insurance companies and can’t find the mental support required. In addition, it is expected that some patients with long Covid will take legal action against health insurance companies for refusing to cover them for their disabilities.

Workplace Rights

Another area where considerations are needed for sufferers of long Covid is the workplace accommodations for disabilities, as indicated by the Department of Labor. Despite ADA requirements that employers with 15 or more employees have reasonable accommodations for anyone with a disability, everyone does not view these as the same.

So far, there have been no new developments in how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will enforce any anti-bias laws in private workplaces for long Covid sufferers. However, the ADA allows workers to sue an employer for alleged discrimination or failure to accommodate their disability.

The Education Department issued guidance to address children with long COVID needs. The document discusses the responsibilities of schools and public agencies to provide services and reasonable modifications to children with long Covid disabilities.

Disability Backlog and Problems with Diagnosing Long Covid

People seeking benefits are required to provide the relevant agency with a positive coronavirus test. However, this is difficult for some patients who got it at the beginning of the pandemic when these were in short supply. That means that there is no direct medical evidence for these patients for their long-term symptoms and disabilities.

Another problem plaguing these people is the backlog in the system of the Social Security Administration. Applicants must provide medical evidence to support their claims, and the waiting period for claims often stretches for months on end.

Proving long Covid is tricky because no two individuals have the same symptoms. Additionally, it requires a coordinated effort by various medical specialists, making it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis.

Hopefully, the efforts made by the current administration will address some of the most fundamental legal rights of long Covid patients, especially the right to qualify for a disability benefit.