New Medicare Data on COVID-19 Disparities

July 30, 2020

On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an update on COVID-19 among Medicare beneficiaries, covering Medicare claims and encounter data from Jan. 1, 2020 through June 20, 2020. The overall Medicare hospitalization rate for COVID-19 was 254 per 100,000 during this period, with hospitalization rates remaining highest for Black Medicare beneficiaries at 670 per 100,000. This update also shows that American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries experience the second highest hospitalization rate for COVID-19 at 505 per 100,000. Previously, a lack of data prevented CMS from reporting on how COVID-19 affects the American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare population.

Dual eligibility for both the Medicare and Medicaid programs also appears to drive hospitalization. Dual eligible beneficiaries are disproportionately more likely to experience a COVID-19 hospitalization across all demographics, with Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaskan Native dual eligible beneficiaries disproportionately affected compared with Asian and White dual eligible beneficiaries.

The CMS Office of Minority Health recently hosted three listening sessions with stakeholders who serve and represent racial and ethnic minority Medicare beneficiaries. According to CMS, these sessions provided information on ways in which CMS can address social risks and other barriers to healthcare that will assist in current and future efforts to reduce health disparities.

Other findings include approximately equal proportions of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries discharged to their home and passing away during their hospital stay (27% and 26%, respectively). Medicare COVID-19 fee-for-service payments total $2.8 billion as of June 20, with per beneficiary spending ranging from about $5,000 (5th percentile) to $71,000 (95th percentile). The most common chronic conditions among hospitalized fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and anemia.

More information on Medicare COVID-19 data is on CMS’ website, including an FAQ on this data release.