April 07, 2022

Duckworth, Colleagues Unveil Legislation to Expand Access to Treatment for Those Struggling with Long COVID


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) as well as U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), Don Beyer (D-VA-08) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), introduced the Targeting Resources for Equitable Access to Treatment for Long COVID (TREAT Long COVID) Act to increase access to medical care and treatment for communities and individuals struggling with long COVID. This first-of-its-kind legislation would fund the expansion of 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.

“Even if COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow, millions of Americans who contracted this disease—including people of color who continue to bear the brunt of this pandemic—would continue to suffer from long COVID, with symptoms ranging from heart palpitations to brain fog,” said Senator Duckworth. “A holistic approach to treatment is absolutely necessary, particularly for those communities who face the harshest barriers to obtaining healthcare. That’s one of the reasons why, as Democrats continue our work to make sure people have access to tests, vaccines and therapeutics, I’m proud to introduce the TREAT Long COVID Act with Senators Markey and Kaine and Representatives Pressley, Beyer and Rochester. It would help all those living with long COVID gain better access to medical care and treatment options in their communities so we can help save lives and make sure no one is left behind on the road to recovery.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with long COVID may experience a combination of symptoms, ranging from extreme fatigue and cognitive dysfunction or “brain fog,” to muscle pain and gastrointestinal issues, to difficulty breathing, insomnia and heart palpitations. Although there is no official count of people suffering from long COVID, a conservative estimate of only ten percent of documented COVID-19 survivors could mean nearly 8 million people are impacted across the United States. Currently, there is no federal program focused on expanding treatment options for this unique and growing population. The absence of specialized support contributes to patients experiencing greater physical and mental anguish, disruption in employment and education, and reduced quality of life.

The TREAT Long COVID Act would expand treatment for long COVID nationwide by:

  • Authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants up to $2,000,000 to health care 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 that 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 health care workers serving patients; and
  • Requiring grantees to submit an annual report on its activities that includes evaluations from patients.

“After talking to Virginians who are living with long COVID and meeting with medical providers across the Commonwealth, it’s clear we must do more to support health facilities that provide needed services for people dealing with the long-term impacts of the virus,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to support the TREAT Long COVID Act to ensure clinics that help people with long COVID have access to critical funding and resources to continue their vital work.”

“As we’ve learned, COVID-19 presents itself differently in different patients - some are asymptomatic, and others have serious and even fatal complications. This wide range of health impacts from COVID-19 is also true for patients dealing with Long COVID,” said Senator Markey. “There is no one-size-fits all approach to Long COVID treatment, which is why we must expand access to comprehensive, individualized care. The TREAT Long COVID Act provides funding for multidisciplinary Long COVID clinics, helping ensure patients are at the center of our approach to this illness that impacts so many.”

“A just and equitable pandemic recovery must include the millions of people living with Long COVID, a community whose voices and suffering have been ignored for far too long. This pandemic has had prolonged health impacts on our most vulnerable individuals and families—particularly in Black, brown, and historically marginalized communities—and it is long past time we provide accessible treatment for our long haulers who have been living with the physical and mental anguish without adequate care,” said Rep. Pressley. “By helping folks with Long COVID get critical treatment right in their communities, the TREAT Long COVID Act will help save lives and support our long-term recovery from this pandemic. People struggling with Long COVID deserve accessible and affordable medical care and treatment now, and Congress must pass our bill without delay.”

"Millions of Americans suffer from Long Covid, and in many cases the symptoms of this disease are more harmful than the initial infection,” said Rep. Beyer. “Our bill would provide crucial funding to support the creation and expansion of Long Covid clinics to provide affected Americans with treatment and care. There is a staggering amount of need for these services, which still are not receiving the level of attention and response from policymakers that they deserve. Our bill would complement recent actions announced by the Biden-Harris Administration to meet that need and help the large and growing number of Americans living with this illness.”

“We know that the impacts of COVID can linger long after Americans return to testing negative. Recovery from COVID-19 is posing a new set of challenges for both patients and health care providers,” said Rep. Rochester. “Millions of individuals continue to experience long COVID, and they don’t know where to get help. That’s why I’m proud to join with Reps. Pressley & Beyer to introduce the TREAT Long COVID Act to connect people struggling with long COVID with healthcare services in their own communities.”

The copy of the bill text can be found here.

The TREAT Long COVID Act is endorsed by the COVID-19 Longhauler Advocacy Project, Body Politic, Patient-Led Research Collaborative, Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers, Access Living, National Health Council, American Physical Therapy Association, Massachusetts ME/CFS & FM Association, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mbadika, Solve M.E., American Association on Health and Disability and Lakeshore Foundation.

Duckworth is dedicated to advancing legislation that would support the millions of Americans who live with the devastating impacts of COVID-19. In March, Duckworth helped introduce the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act along with U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) to improve research on post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), more commonly referred to as long COVID, as well as provide resources for those experiencing it.