The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) recently released new data on the impact of COVID-19 on people with Medicare, updating its Medicare COVID-19 Data Snapshot. The report captures beneficiary infection and hospitalization rates for most of 2020 (January 1 through December 26). Like previous versions, it shows that certain populations are being disproportionately affected by the virus.
More than 2.7 million people with Medicare were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the snapshot period, and nearly 700,000 were hospitalized. The agency notes that since January 2021, cases increased by more than 790,000 and hospitalizations grew by more than 206,000. For the first time since CMS started releasing this snapshot, the rate of rural COVID-19 cases (4,271 per 100,000) surpassed the rate of urban cases (4,151 per 100,000).
American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries again had the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate (2,393 per 100,000), followed by Black (1,937 per 100,000) and Hispanic (1,617 per 100,000) beneficiaries. These populations also had higher infection rates than their white counterparts. Notably, the report includes new breakdowns that illustrate the general consistency of these patterns across age groups.
The data also confirms other well documented disparities, including those based on Medicare enrollment type and eligibility. People who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid had nearly three times the rate of infection and hospitalization than people who only have Medicare, and those with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) were roughly three times more likely to be infected and six times more likely to hospitalized than beneficiaries without ESRD.
These trends continue to underscore the need for an equitable approach to COVID-19 prevention and awareness. Accordingly, CMS also issued new COVID-19 vaccine resources to help health care professionals, community partners, and consumers discuss the impact of the pandemic and the importance of getting vaccinated. The materials, which include FAQs and outreach toolkits, are available here: Go.CMS.gov/omhcovid19vaccine.