Medicare data: Blacks likelier to be hospitalized for COVID

Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma speaks during a roundtable with President Donald Trump about America's seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma speaks during a roundtable with President Donald Trump about America's seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Blacks were nearly four times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with COVID-19 among people with Medicare, the government said Monday.

The analysis from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also found that having advanced kidney disease was an even more severe risk indicator for hospitalization than race, ethnicity, or being poor.

“It reconfirms long-standing issues around disparities and vulnerable populations,” said Medicare administrator Seema Verma, adding that "race and ethnicity are far from the only story.''

Medicare's analysis confirms what The Associated Press and other media organizations have previously reported about African Americans and Latinos bearing the brunt of the pandemic, while adding new details.

The group covered by Medicare is considered the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Most of its 60 million enrollees are age 65 and older. Also covered are younger people who qualify because of disabilities.

From Jan. 1-May 16, more than 325,000 Medicare recipients were diagnosed with COVID-19, and nearly 110,000 were hospitalized, according to the analysis of claims data. Medicare spent $1.9 billion for hospital care, an average of about $23,000 per case for people enrolled in the traditional fee-for-service part of the program.

The analysis found that:

— Black people with Medicare were hospitalized at a rate of 465 per 100,000 enrollees, or nearly four times the rate for whites, which was 123 per 100,000.

— The rate for Hispanics was 258 per 100,000, or about twice the rate of whites. Asians were about one-and-a-half times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

— Low-income Medicare recipients who are also covered by their state Medicaid programs had a hospitalization rate that was slightly higher than the rate for African Americans.

— There were fewer COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among Medicare recipients in rural areas, when compared to cities and suburbs.

But all in all, having advanced kidney disease was by far the biggest risk factor, the study found. People whose kidneys have stopped working to the point where they can't live without dialysis or a transplant had a hospitalization rate of 1,341 per 100,000, or nearly three times higher than the rates for low-income beneficiaries and African-Americans.

Verma said this may reflect the fact that people with advanced kidney disease generally also suffer from other medical problems that worsen COVID-19 outcomes, such as diabetes. Patients typically have to travel to a special facility to get dialysis, and the treatment can bring them together with others who may have been exposed.

Medical problems such as high blood pressure and heart conditions also tend to be more prevalent among Blacks and Latinos, increasing their risks for severe coronavirus infections.

Taken together, the Medicare data call for a greater focus on social conditions that contribute to poor health, Verma said, as well as continuing to expand coordinated care for patients trying to cope with several chronic conditions at a time.

The Medicare data released Monday lack complete information about deaths, since they only record those who passed away in a hospital.

More From

  • Ex-NBA superstar Shaq assists stranded Florida driver

    A woman whose car was left stranded along a Florida interstate when her tire blew out got a little unexpected help from former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, sheriff's officials say. O'Neal, who lives in the Orlando area, was traveling on Interstate 75 near Gainesville on Monday when he saw the woman pull onto the side of the road, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said on a Facebook post. In the video posted to Facebook, deputies thanked O'Neal for his assistance.

  • Yanks' mission unchanged: win 28th title, first since 2009

    Nothing changes the New York Yankees’ quest, not the novel coronavirus, not the shortest schedule in their century-plus history. "Where there’s no fans in the stands and you’re getting used to how to find that gear or how to find that energy in a situation that you’re not used to, I think there’s a competitive advantage to gain that we have to take advantage of,” the third-year manager added. New York expected to compete from the first pitch by new ace Gerrit Cole, just not while emerging from a socially distanced clubhouse to an empty Yankee Stadium.

  • Wait 'til next year: Giving up on 2020, looking toward 2021

    This was supposed to be the year of the comeback for Boysie Dikobe, a South African dancer recovering from his second hip replacement and gearing up to get back on stage when the coronavirus hit. “Every day felt heavier and heavier and heavier,” Perkins recalls, saying she had frequent breakdowns and couldn’t bring herself to officially cancel the wedding.

  • 1st female alleges sexual abuse by U of Michigan doctor

    The first female to publicly say she was sexually abused by a team doctor at the University of Michigan says she hopes to inspire other women and men to come forward. Cathy Kalahar, who played tennis for the Wolverines in the 1970s, joins hundreds of Michigan graduates who allege that doctor Robert Anderson molested them. Kalahar told The Associated Press on Monday that Anderson assaulted her during an exam when she was a freshman in 1973.