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Blog | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Long COVID may affect a minimum of 10 million working-age adults

Blog | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Long COVID may affect a minimum of 10 million working-age adults

  • Long COVID may affect 10 million to 33 million working-age adults in the United States and could significantly change healthcare coverage, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Policy Watch.
  • The national uninsured rate in early 2022 reached an all-time low of 8%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Twenty-nine percent of nurses surveyed this year are considering leaving nursing, says a Nurse.com report.

Over the last few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.    

1. Long COVID-19 may affect a minimum of 10 million working-age adults and significantly change health insurance for many

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation Policy Watch reviews some alarming statistics about the potential effect of long COVID-19 on the workforce. The authors surmise that long COVID may affect 10 million to 33 million working-age adults in the United States, and it could significantly change healthcare coverage for many.

The incidence of long COVID is “uncertain with studies finding that the percentage of working age adults with COVID who develop long COVID could be 10 percent20 percent, or 33 percent,” wrote the authors. “If we conservatively assume 100 million working age adults have been infected, that implies 10 to 33 million may have long COVID.”

The authors added it is unknown “how long people with long COVID will remain ill,” although one study reported that “29% of long COVID patients had self-reported symptoms for more than one year.”

What does this mean for the U.S. workforce and insurance coverage?

“Between 22% and 27% of people who worked prior to infection were out of work after getting long COVID,” according to two surveys cited in the report.

“Given the sheer number of working age adults with long COVID-19, the employment implications may be profound and are likely to affect more people over time,” wrote the authors.

The consequences for how this trend could impact health insurance coverage are significant as well.

“People who are no longer able to work could eventually lose their existing coverage and would also experience loss of income,” the authors wrote. “Some could newly qualify for help paying for private health insurance through the ACA [Affordable Care Act] marketplaces. Others could newly qualify for Medicaid — though eligibility is more limited in the dozen states that have not expanded the program under the ACA.”

2. The U.S. achieved an all-time low uninsured rate early in 2022 — what could that mean for mortality rates?

“The national uninsured rate reached an all-time low of 8% among all U.S. residents” in early 2022, per new National Health Interview Survey data, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report released Aug. 2.

Millions more people having health insurance seems like good news for  the healthcare system, and the results of a 2020 study — as described in a new National Institute of Health Care Management research summary — “provide experimental evidence that health insurance coverage can reduce mortality in the United States.”

The original research, published Sept. 24, 2020, in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, evaluated “a randomized outreach study in which the IRS sent informational letters to 3.9 million households that paid a tax penalty for lacking health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.” Researchers  then studied how this intervention affected taxpayers’ subsequent health insurance enrollment and mortality.

“We find the intervention led to increased coverage during the subsequent two years and reduced mortality among middle-aged adults over the same time period,” wrote the researchers.

According to the NIHCM summary, the results of the original study also show:

  • Uninsured individuals who received the informational letter were 1.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in coverage during the following two years than those who did not receive the outreach.
  • The increase in coverage was primarily driven by increased enrollment in the individual-insurance marketplace and, to a lesser extent, new enrollment in Medicaid.
  • Among people ages 45 to 64 who previously were uninsured and who enrolled in coverage after receiving the letter, the intervention reduced mortality by one death for every 1,587 treated individuals.

3.  Survey shows steep increase in the number of nurses considering leaving the profession

The pandemic has had a profound impact on whether nurses want to stay in the profession and under what terms,” wrote the authors of the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.

Twenty-nine percent ”were considering leaving nursing” in 2022 — 18 percentage points more than in 2020, the survey found.

Other findings, from the survey, released by Nurse.com, include:

  • 4% of survey respondents report working as travel nurses, with 62% of them moving to travel nursing in 2020 or 2021.
  • Most of the nurses who became travel nurses in the past two years cited higher pay as the No. 1 reason for their decision, followed by dissatisfaction with management. Other nurses who changed work settings in 2020 and 2021 cited the same reasons for making the move.
  • 47% of survey respondents this year, compared with 38% in 2020, indicated they considered themselves passive job seekers — not actively looking for a new job but open to new opportunities.

HFMA bonus content

Read the Aug. 19 article, “Landmark law to curb drug prices in Medicare has potential, but implementation will be key,” by Nick Hut, senior editor.

Listen to the HFMA Voices in Healthcare Finance podcast, “Cost effectiveness of health and the urgent case for value: More insights from HFMA’s 2022 Annual Conference.”

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor at HFMA, Downers Grove, Ill

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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