Medicare data spotlight deadly impact of COVID-19 on Hispanics

Dec. 29, 2021

More than one of every five Hispanic Medicare patients hospitalized with COVID-19 died in the hospital, a rate 3.5 percentage points higher than White Medicare patients, and pre-pandemic disparities only widened with the arrival of COVID, according to a new study in JAMA Health Forum, according to a news report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.

The study, by researchers with Harvard Medical School (HMS), the University of Arkansas, and Boston-based Avant-garde Health, included data on 31,771,054 Medicare beneficiaries and 14,021,285 hospitalizations from January 2019 through February 2021 to assess hospitalizations and deaths before and during the pandemic.

Of the beneficiaries, 26,225,623 were non-Hispanic White, 2,797,462 were Black, 692,994 were Hispanic, and 2,054,975 belonged to other racial and ethnic minority groups.

Among hospitalized COVID-19 Hispanic patients, 21.7% died in the hospital, compared with 16.6% of White COVID-19 patients and 17.0% of Black COVID-19 patients — or about 5 percentage points higher. After adjustment to make an apples-to-apples comparison, the researchers said the difference in death rates was 3.5 percentage points. Other racial and ethnic minority groups saw a 21.0% death rate.

The investigators also found that non–COVID-19 Hispanic Medicare patients died in the hospital at a rate 0.3 percentage points higher than their White counterparts. Also, as non-COVID admissions declined in Medicare, Black inpatients experienced a nearly 0.5-percentage-point greater increase in in-hospital deaths compared with White inpatients, amounting to a 17.5% higher rate of climb.

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