The Omicron Variant & Your Disability Insurance Policy: What You Need to Know
The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has dominated news headlines for weeks now. Official statistics indicate it accounted for over half of the active cases of the virus in the United States by the end of 2021.
Though it’s too early to say for certain, early reports suggest the Omicron variant may be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus, but less likely to cause serious illness. There is also some evidence that existing COVID-19 tests and vaccinations may be less effective when it comes to the Omicron variant.
These new developments have many wondering what kind of protections their short- or long-term disability insurance policies might offer during this new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s Different About the Omicron Variant?
Omicron differs from other COVID-19 variants in a number of ways. We’ve looked at some of the most important features of the new strain below.
Most people are, by now, familiar with the hallmark symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. The most common of these include:
- A dry cough
- Extreme fatigue
- A runny nose
- Loss of smell and taste
- Aches and pains
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Though experts have not yet had the chance to carry out in-depth research, doctors have anecdotally reported that patients with the Omicron variant are commonly presenting with congestion, fatigue, coughs, and runny noses. However, they are less likely to have lost their taste and smell than people with earlier strains of COVID-19, such as the Delta variant.
It’s important to stress that these distinctions have not been confirmed by large-scale research, and that it’s too early to tell what difference the vaccination status of patients might be making.
Transmissibility & Severity
According to the most recent CDC information, it’s likely that Omicron spreads more easily than the original strain of the virus, but it’s not entirely clear how transmissible the new strain is compared to the Delta variant. The agency also states that more evidence is required to say whether Omicron is more likely to cause severe illnesses than previous strains.
However, leading public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recently claimed that the available evidence suggests the Omicron variant is less likely to cause serious illness than Delta. Fauci stressed that more research in this area is still necessary and warned against complacency.
Vaccines & Testing
The CDC states that both antigen tests and nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) can identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in patients with Omicron. However, those tests cannot identify whether a given individual has the Omicron variant or another strain of the virus.
The CDC also states that existing vaccines appear effective in reducing the likelihood of serious illness arising from the Omicron variant. The agency does also stress that breakthrough infections (infections in vaccinated individuals) are still possible.
Disability Insurance & the Omicron Variant
As a relatively new disease, COVID-19 is not specifically mentioned or excluded in any current long- or short-term disability insurance policies. That said, your disability insurance policy should still offer income replacement benefits if you’re unable to carry out full- or part-time work because of an ongoing COVID-related illness.
In order for your individually purchased or employer-sponsored group disability insurance policy to start paying monthly benefits, whether in relation to COVID-19 or another disabling condition, you will have to be able to show the following:
- That you cannot, or are struggling to, carry out the normal occupational duties associated with your occupation because of your illness or injury.
- That the elimination or waiting period on your short- or long-term policy has elapsed.
- That your physician has given you appropriate treatment for the condition and confirmed that your condition has rendered you unable to work with reasonable continuity in the usual and customary way. If you have “any occupation” coverage, rather than “own occupation,” your physician will have to confirm that your condition is preventing you from working in any occupation for which you are trained, educated, or suited.
“Long COVID” and Long-Term Disability Insurance
COVID-19 does not have to cause severe illness in the short-term to leave patients with lingering disabling symptoms. As we explored in a previous blog, a condition health professionals are referring to as “long COVID” is leaving some individuals with disabling symptoms for extended periods after initial coronavirus infections. Some people develop long COVID having only had mild or asymptomatic initial infections.
The symptoms of long COVID include:
- Brain fog, diminished executive functioning, and/or poor focus
- Aches and pains
- Persistent fatigue
- Aches and pains
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Cardiac issues, such as enlargement of the heart
- Organ damage
If you do experience an ongoing disability of this nature, you may be able to rely on your long-term disability insurance policy to ensure your financial security while you cannot perform the duties associated with your full- or part-time occupation.
The expert knowledge in this area continues to evolve, which means that COVID-19 disability insurance claims are rarely “black-and-white.” Hiring a long-term disability attorney will give your claim the best possible chance of success.
Protecting Yourself After a COVID-19 Diagnosis
Whether it’s Omicron, Delta, or another variant, a COVID-19 diagnosis is a scary and potentially debilitating event. If your symptoms leave you unable to carry out full- or part-time work for an extended period, monthly benefits from an individual or group ERISA policy can help you stay financially sound until you get back on your feet.
If you need assistance with a short- or long-term disability insurance claim, whether it’s related to COVID-19 or another disabling condition, contact us today to schedule a free initial case review or free claim analysis. If your insurer has unfairly rejected your initial claim, we can help you formulate a comprehensive strategy to give you the best chance of success on appeal or filing your individual disability case.