Basic healthcare package ‘should be extended for long-term Covid-19 patients’

Care for people with long-term Covid-19 symptoms should be covered by the basic healthcare insurance, the government national healthcare institute has said.

At the moment rehabilitation treatment such as physiotherapy and cognitive therapy are limited to a few hours, after which patients need to pay from their own pocket or through supplementary insurance.

In a recommendation to medical care minister Tamara van Ark, the healthcare adviser Zorginstituut Nederland said the basic healthcare package should be expanded to cover long-term Covid treatment.

The measure would apply both to patients who spent time in intensive care and hospital wards and those who became seriously ill at home.

Dutch residents can change their annual health insurance package at the start of each year, but the risk of Covid-19, which was first identified in China on December 31 2019, was unknown when people chose their current plans.

Physiotherapy

It is clear that many Covid-19 patients continue to suffer from shortness of breath and cognitive problems, such as memory loss and loss of concentration, the institute said, and will need more care than they are insured for. Much needed physiotherapy, for instance, is only covered from the 21st session. The institute wants the insurance to include all physiotherapy.

Some 1,600 people will be using the extra care, at a cost of €28m for the first year after the outbreak, the institute estimated.

The urgency of the problems faced by these patients as a result of Covid-19 caused the institute to deviate from its normal rules and speed up the process.

The normal procedure would be to ascertain whether or not extended rehabiltation care is effective. This cannot happen now because the effects of such care for Covid-19 is new and untried.

‘The overriding consideration is solidarity: the outbreak of Covid-19 has developed into a unique pandemic which is affecting many patients,’ it said.

It is not yet known by how much healthcare premiums will go up as a result of Covid-19. Insurance companies must announce their premiums for 2021 by November 12.

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