AAPM&R is Calling for a Comprehensive National Plan to Address the Needs of Millions Suffering from Long COVID

According to two recent publications from the Journal of the American Medical Association, ten to thirty percent of individuals who had COVID-19 reported at least one persistent symptom up to six months after the virus left their bodies. That means 3 to 10 million Americans are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), which are varied and ongoing, including neurological challenges, cognitive problems such as brain fog, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, and mobility issues.

AAPM&R called on President Joe Biden and Congress to gear up for the next coronavirus crisis by preparing and implementing a comprehensive national plan focused on meeting the needs of millions of individuals suffering from the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, and help them regain quality of life and return to being active members of their communities. The plan must include a commitment to three major components:

  • Resources to build necessary infrastructure to meet this crisis
  • Equitable access to care for patients
  • Research to advance medical understanding of Long COVID

PM&R physicians are uniquely qualified to help guide the multidisciplinary effort needed to develop a plan for this crisis. As a specialty, physiatrists are investigators, team leaders and problem solvers. PM&R physicians see the whole patient AND the whole picture of the rehabilitation ecosystem. Physiatrists are exactly what this crisis needs. Learn more about our Multidisciplinary PASC Collaborative, launched in March 2021, which is working on quality improvement initiatives.

AAPM&R Advocacy, Healthcare Collaborations and Partnerships, and Customized Resources to Support PM&R During This Crisis

AAPM&R is working to ensure PM&R is part of the national conversation about healthcare amidst COVID-19 and advocating for the federal support, legislation, regulation relief and resources that physiatrists need now. One way we are doing this is through our partnerships and collaborations with other specialty societies. The Academy continuously works to represent PM&R through these collaborations, and it is through these partnerships that we are able to discuss and share a variety of resources with you that you critically need.

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New Long COVID Legislation Introduced to Expand Access to Multidisciplinary Care and Treatment

Apr 07, 2022

We have another success to share following our announcement yesterday on Long COVID! Today, the Targeting Resources for Equitable Access to Treatment for Long COVID (TREAT Long COVID) Act was introduced in both the House and Senate by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, alongside Senator Tammy Duckworth, Representatives Don Beyer and Lisa Blunt Rochester and Senators Tim Kaine and Edward J. Markey. This bill aims to increase access to multidisciplinary medical care and treatment for communities and individuals struggling with Long COVID. The first-of-its-kind bill will fund the expansion of existing Long COVID clinics (and development of new Long COVID clinics) and empower healthcare providers—including community health centers and local public health departments—to treat Long COVID patients in their own communities.

Thank you to Reps. Pressley, Blunt Rochester and Beyer, and Sens. Duckworth, Kaine and Markey for introducing this critical legislation!  AAPM&R endorses this bill and served as a key stakeholder informing Congresswoman Pressley’s Long COVID efforts.

And, THANK YOU to all of our members who are treating Long COVID patients and our volunteer leaders, especially those involved in AAPM&R’s multi-disciplinary PASC Collaborative who have spent countless hours to advance these efforts.

AAPM&R President-Elect Steven R. Flanagan, MD, FAAPMR, is quoted in the press release announcing this bill, stating, “As we continue to build our long-term understanding of Long COVID, it is critical that we make sure the millions of Americans dealing with long-term symptoms of this disease today are not left behind. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians and our other partners across the medical profession have seen firsthand the importance of multidisciplinary, specialized care to helping patients reach their highest levels of recovery, and this legislation will be essential to supporting access to this treatment. We are grateful to Congresswoman Pressley, Reps. Blunt Rochester and Beyer, and Sens. Duckworth, Kaine and Markey for their leadership and for championing the care needs of individuals with Long COVID.”

The TREAT Long COVID Act includes key tenets of AAPM&R’s Call to Action and will expand access to treatment for Long COVID nationwide by:

  • Authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants up to $2,000,000 to healthcare providers, including community health centers
  • Granting funding for the creation and expansion of multidisciplinary Long COVID clinics to address the physical and mental health needs of patients
  • Prioritizing funding for health providers that plan to engage medically underserved populations and populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
  • Ensuring treatment is not denied based on insurance coverage, date or method of diagnosis, or previous hospitalization
  • Encouraging ongoing medical training for physicians in Long COVID Clinics and other healthcare workers serving patients
  • Requiring grantees to submit an annual report on its activities that includes evaluations from patients.

Endorsing this legislation aligns with our vision to ensure physiatrists are indispensable leaders in directing rehabilitation and recovery. Showcasing the specialty’s medical expertise in treating patients with Long COVID raises awareness of the value of physiatry-led multidisciplinary care early and throughout the continuum of patient care.

We continue to work with Congresswoman Pressley, Senator Duckworth and other key Congressional champions as they bring further attention to this important issue in Congress. Learn more about the Academy’s Long COVID efforts.