The analysis, based on what the report calls the largest database of private health insurance claims in the United States, found 78,252 patients who were diagnosed with the U09.9 code from the International Classification of Diseases between Oct. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022, and the vast majority of them had not been hospitalized for their initial infection.
“It’s generating a pandemic of people who were not hospitalized, but who ended up with this increased disability,” said Dr. Paddy Ssentongo, an assistant professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Penn State, who was not involved in the new study.
Dr. Claire Steves, a clinical academic and physician at King’s College London, who was not involved in the new research, said the overall number of people who received the diagnosis was “huge,” especially given that the study covered only the first four months after the diagnostic code was introduced and did not include people covered by government health programs like Medicaid or Medicare (though it did include people in private Medicare Advantage plans). “That’s probably a drop in the ocean compared to what the real number is,” Dr. Steves said.
The study, conducted by FAIR Health, a nonprofit organization that focuses on health care costs and insurance issues, found that for 76 percent of the patients, the initial coronavirus infection did not make them sick enough to require hospitalization. Yet months later, they were experiencing symptoms that were diagnosed as post-Covid conditions.
Another striking finding was that while two-thirds of the patients had pre-existing health conditions in their medical records, nearly a third did not, a much larger percentage than Dr. Ssentongo said he would have expected. “These are people who have been healthy and they’re like, ‘Guys, something is not right with me,’” he said.