The Trump administration issues a call to action based on new data detailing the COVID-19 impact, on Medicare beneficiaries, CMS announces. Older Americans as well as those with chronic conditions are at more risk fro COVID-19 confirming the disparities in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups and low-income populations. “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. “Now more than ever, it is clear that our fee-for-service system is insufficient for the most vulnerable Americans because it limits payment to what goes on inside a doctor’s office. The transition to a value-based system has never been so urgent. When implemented effectively, it encourages clinicians to care for the whole person and address the social risk factors that are so critical for our beneficiaries’ quality of life.”
Data Urges Call To Action
The data shows the total number of COVID-19 cases reported as well as hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries from January 1st to May 16th. The information is broken down for Medicare beneficiaries by state, race/ethnicity, age, gender, dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid, and urban/rural locations. More than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed according to the new data translating into about 518 cases for every 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Furthermore, almost 110,000 beneficiaries were hospitalized for COVID-19 related treatments, about 175 per 100,000.
Minority Groups At Higher Risk
Certain Minority groups were hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate nearly four times higher than the majority.
Other key data points:
- 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. Patients with ESRD are also more likely to have chronic comorbidities associated with increased COVID-19 complications and hospitalization, such as diabetes and heart failure.
- The second-highest rate was among beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid (also known as “dual eligible”), with 473 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries.
- Among racial/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.
- Beneficiaries living in rural areas have fewer cases and were hospitalized at a lower rate than those living in urban/suburban areas (57 versus 205 hospitalizations per 100,000).
Dual Eligible Double The Risk
Beneficiaries who are dual-eligible also have a higher infection rate of COVID-19 according to the snapshot, 1,406 cases per 100,000 beneficiaries. Compared to Medicare only there were 325 cases per 100,000. Dual Eligibles across the board ranked higher across all age, sex, and race/ethnicity groups.
A Solution to the Increase Rate For Medicare Beneficiaries
Whatever solution is made must have a multi-sectoral approach that includes federal, state, and local governments, community-based organizations, and private industry. CMS stated in the press release that one piece of this is the increased implementation of value-based systems that reward providers for keeping patients healthy and gives consumers information about disease presentation and outcomes to help make healthcare choices based on quality. CMS also advises states to double down on the barriers in place to protect low-income seniors and look at the data and determine what resources are available, both locally and federally, to improve this disparity of health outcomes.
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