On March 31, 2022, Juliana Reno was quoted in Part B News on long COVID being treated as a disability. According to the article, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, Congress approved $1.15 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study what NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., called the “constellation of symptoms” suffered by patients “long past the time that they’ve recovered from the initial stages of COVID-19 illness.” This package of ongoing symptoms — ranging from “brain fog” and fatigue to respiratory symptoms and other distinct maladies — is informally known as “long COVID” or “post-acute COVID” but does not currently have a specific formal diagnosis.
As reports of the syndrome have mounted, some patients have struggled to have their medical condition properly assessed and documented. Some have had to battle with their insurers over disability claims for long COVID, according to reports. Official federal guidance would appear to support patients in these cases. The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notes that “long COVID can be a disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “if it substantially limits one or more major life activities,” according to guidance published on the OCR website.
However, Reno explains that insurers “are not required to use [the ADA] definition [of disability] and generally do not use this definition. For example, it would be common for a long-term disability policy to define ‘totally disabled’ as ‘unable to perform, on a full-time basis, the major duties of any occupation for which you are, or could become, qualified for by training, education, or experience.’” That definition hews to a greater burden than the ADA requires.