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COVID-19 has Disproportionate Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries

July 30, 2020

This week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its monthly update on the impact of COVID-19 on Medicare recipients. The new data confirms the pandemic is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations.

The CMS data indicates that American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries have the second-highest rate of COVID-19-related hospitalizations. This is the first time the data was available for American Indian/Alaskan Natives, as previously the number of hospitalizations among this group was too low to be reported. Other key data points include:

  • Black beneficiaries continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups
  • Beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid were hospitalized at a rate more than 4.5 times higher than beneficiaries with Medicare only
  • Beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other segments of the Medicare population
  • CMS paid $2.8 billion in Medicare fee-for-service claims for COVID-related hospitalizations

In response, the CMS Office of Minority Health hosted three listening sessions, providing helpful insight into ways in which CMS can address social risks and other barriers to health care that will help to reduce health disparities.

A disproportionate pattern that Medicare is showing for COVID-19 also is reflected more broadly in Pennsylvania in terms of African Americans having a higher death rate for heart disease and certain ethnic groups having less access to care.

Pennsylvania now has a state Office of Health Equity and HAP is working closely with the director and our member hospitals to address these issues.

For questions or more information, please contact Jolene Calla, Esq., HAP’s vice president, health care finance and insurance.