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Black Americans hospitalized at four times the rate of whites for COVID-19

Black Americans enrolled in Medicare were around four times as likely as their white counterparts to be hospitalized for the current coronavirus, U.S. government data released on last Monday demonstrated, highlighting significant racial disparities in health outcomes during the pandemic.

“The disparities in the data reflect longstanding challenges facing minority communities and low-income older adults,” declared Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which released the analysis.

The report also showed that more than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 1 and May 16. Of those, more than 110,000 were hospitalised.

Image credit The Washington Post

It has been counted that Black Americans had a hospitalisation rate of 465 per 100,000 Black Medicare beneficiaries. For other groups measured by CMS, the rates per capita of hospitalisations were 258 for Hispanics, 187 for Asians and 123 for whites.

The hospitalisation rates were high for people who qualified for both the senior-focused Medicare program and the low-income-focused Medicaid program, at 473 per 100,000.

“Low socioeconomic status all wrapped up with racial disparities represents a powerful predictor of complications with Coronavirus,” Verma explained during a briefing about the data.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed primarily for seniors, as well as some people with disabilities and end-stage kidney disease.

Specifically, Medicare beneficiaries with end-stage kidney disease were hospitalised for COVID-19 at a rate of 1,341 per 100,000 people.

Image credit The New York Times

Verma also pointed out that the CMS’ ongoing push could help address racial disparities. The data, based on claims filed for reimbursement from Medicare operates at a delay of several weeks. However, they could be fundamental to reimburse providers based on health outcomes, rather than simply paying them fixed fees for their services.

“When implemented effectively, (value-based reimbursement) encourages clinicians to care for the whole person and address the social risk factors that are so critical for our beneficiaries’ quality of life,” Verma concluded.


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