Biden's plan for long COVID-19: 4 notes

President Joe Biden on April 5 issued a memorandum directing HHS to coordinate a governmentwide plan to address long COVID-19, estimated to affect 7 million to 23 million Americans. 

The memo also directs HHS to issue a report detailing federal resources and support services for those with long COVID-19. 

"This effort will advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and provision of services, supports, and interventions for individuals experiencing long COVID-19 and associated conditions," the White House said in a news release. 

Four other actions from the White House's long COVID-19 plan:

1. Expand long COVID-19 clinics run by the Veterans Affairs Department: The VA will establish more long COVID-19 programs and build robust referral and follow-up systems across its facilities. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health will also launch the Health+ project to collect feedback from people living with long COVID-19 to help inform the development of best practices at these clinics.

2. Invest $20 million to create "Centers of Excellence": This effort will investigate "how healthcare systems can best organize and deliver care for people with long COVID-19, provide telemonitoring and expert consultation for primary care practices and advance the development of multispeciality clinics to provide complex care," according to the White House.

3. Strengthen coverage for long COVID-19 care: The White House cited efforts to cover care for those with long COVID-19, including the American Rescue Plan, which requires state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs to cover treatment and therapies for long COVID-19. "Moving forward, the administration will continue to assess opportunities to enhance access to care for long COVID and its associated symptoms through Medicare, Medicaid, insurance marketplace coverage and other options," the Biden administration said, adding federal officials will also work to increase long COVID-19 awareness among Federal Employee Health Benefit Program carriers. 

4. Accelerate research: The government plans to direct more support to the National Health Institute's $1.15 billion RECOVER Initiative, a comprehensive research effort on long COVID-19. The administration will work to accelerate enrollment of 40,000 participants for the study. The president has also requested $25 million in his fiscal year budget for 2023 for separate research "to answer key questions on the characteristics, risk factors, underlying mechanisms and health impacts of long COVID — through clinician engagement, electronic health data analyses, and grant funding," according to the White House.

Experts welcomed the governmentwide plan to advance research and resources to combat long COVID-19, telling The Washington Post it was an "overdue recognition" of the condition. Others called for more to be done, saying the current initiatives do not cover long COVID-19's true scope. 

David Putrino, PhD, director of rehabilitation innovation at New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System, critiqued the $20 million investment to launch specialized "Centers of Excellence." 

"We are talking about $20 million to cover building out care coordination strategies for a mass disabling event that is affecting an estimated, at least 2 percent, of all Americans with a multisystem, multiorgan condition," he told the Post. "This is complex care — $20 million doesn't get you very far." 

To read more about the action plan, click here.


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