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The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) has released an updated COVID-19 report, Medical Treatments and Costs of COVID-19 Claims and “Long COVID” in the California Workers’ Compensation System – 2023 Update.

Since March 2020, over 300,000 COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims have been filed in California.The number and average cost of COVID-19 claims declined in 2021 and 2022 compared to the early months of the pandemic, partly due to higher population immunity driven by vaccinations and prior infections.  Still, many claims continued to be filed, particularly from healthcare workers on the frontline of COVID-19 patient care and others who had to work outside the home and face higher exposure to COVID-19 infection.

In March 2022, the WCIRB published a study on the patterns of medical treatment and costs of COVID-19 claims based on claim experience mostly during the pre-vaccine period. The study showed that COVID-19 claims that involved medical treatments, particularly hospitalizations, incurred significant medical costs.

The study also provided an early assessment of the prevalence of “long COVID” (post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, PASC), a constellation of persistent symptoms that can emerge or linger in various body systems long after the initial infection, in the workers’ compensation system.

The study estimated that approximately 11% of COVID-19 claims with an initial mild infection received medical treatment for long COVID symptoms over a 4-month post-acute care period. The rate of long COVID spiked to about 40% for those hospitalized for the initial infection.

Since then, additional experience of COVID-19 claims has become available, providing additional insights into the impacts of long COVID on permanent disability.

The WCIRB has updated the analysis of medical treatments and costs of COVID-19 claims in the California workers’ compensation system based on almost 10,000 insured COVID-19 claims with medical payments and a reported accident date between April 2020 and December 2021. This recent study update focuses on a comparison of claims filed in 2020 to those filed in 2021 when vaccines became more widely available to California workers.

The 2023 update analyzes the prevalence of long COVID over a 12-month post-acute care period and the characteristics of workers experiencing long COVID.

The update also estimates the long COVID prevalence of workers being treated in the California group health insurance system to validate the estimates in the workers’ compensation system and includes an additional analysis of how comorbidities affect long COVID among patients with group health insurance.

Highlights of the report include:

– – COVID-19 claims for accident years 2020 and 2021 share a similar mix of mild, hospital and death claims.
– – Over a 12-month post-acute care period, approximately 13 percent of COVID-19 claims with medical payments received treatments for long COVID symptoms in the workers’ compensation system.
– – The risks of long COVID are higher among female workers, workers over age 50 as well as those with comorbidities.
– – Claims involving treatments for long COVID symptoms are four times more likely to receive permanent disability benefits compared to other COVID-19 claims without treatments for long COVID symptoms.

The full report is available in the Research section of the WCIRB website.