CMS releases data showing healthcare disparities in COVID-19 cases

June 24, 2020

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data on Medicare beneficiaries, showing that Americans who are older, low income, from racial and ethnic minority groups, or who have chronic health conditions are at highest risk for COVID-19.

“The disparities in the data reflect longstanding challenges facing minority communities and low-income older adults, many of whom face structural challenges to their health that go far beyond what is traditionally considered ‘medical’,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Overall, more than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries had a diagnosis of COVID-19 between January 1 and May 16, 2020, or 518 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries. During the same period, nearly 110,000 Medicare beneficiaries were hospitalized for COVID-19-releated treatment, or 175 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Among racial and ethnic groups, blacks had the highest hospitalization rate, with 465 per 100,000. Hispanics had 258 hospitalizations per 100,000. Asians had 187 per 100,000 and whites had 123 per 100,000, CMS said. Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid (also known as “dual eligible”) were hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with 473 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries.

Besides higher hospitalization rates, these beneficiaries also had an infection rate for COVID-19 of 1,406 cases per 100,000 beneficiaries. By comparison, the coronavirus infection rate for beneficiaries enrolled only in Medicare was 325 cases per 100,000. The rate of COVID-19 cases for dual-eligible beneficiaries also was higher across all age, sex, and racial and ethnic groups, CMS said.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients (individuals with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis) had the highest rate of hospitalization among all Medicare beneficiaries, with 1,341 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries.

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