Coronavirus: CMS data highlights disparities in care

June 23, 2020

The disparities fall along age, race, and health lines.

A new batch of data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shows how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has impacted older Americans, those with chronic health conditions, members of racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income populations, according to a news release.

“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’,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma says in the release. “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.”

According to the release, between Jan. 1 and May 16 more than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries had a COVID-19 diagnosis, which equates out to 518 diagnoses per 100,000 beneficiaries. Nearly 110,000 beneficiaries were hospitalized with the disease, or about 175 per 100,000.

Black people were hospitalized with COVID-19 at nearly four times the rate of white people, but the data gives a snapshot even beyond race and ethnicity to show that disparities are tied to social determinants of health, especially socioeconomic status, the release says.

Other key takeaways from the data include:

  • The highest rate of hospitalization among all Medicare beneficiaries was for patients with end-stage renal disease with 1,341 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries. They also are more likely to have chronic comorbidities associated with increased COVID-19 complications and hospitalizations.
  • Beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid were the second highest rate with 473 hospitalizations per 100,000.
  • Black people have the highest rate of hospitalization by racial/ethnic group with 465 per 100,000, while Hispanic people had 258 hospitalizations per 100,000, and white people had 123 per 100,000.
  • In rural areas, beneficiaries have fewer cases and were hospitalized at a lower rate than those living in urban or suburban areas