The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Tuesday released its first monthly update of data that reveals the impact of the coronavirus on the Medicare population, including American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries.

The data on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations of Medicare beneficiaries covers the period from January 1 to June 20 and is based on Medicare claims and encounter data CMS received by July 17, 2020. CMS determines a hospitalization to be COVID-19 related if an inpatient claim or encounter record has a diagnosis of COVID-19 (B97.29 from Jan. 1-March 31 and U07.1 beginning April 1).

The latest information indicates that American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries have the second highest rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 among racial/ethnic groups after Blacks. Previously, the number of hospitalizations of American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries was too low to be reported.

The updated data confirms that the COVID-19 public health emergency is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. This is due, in part, to the higher rates of chronic health conditions in these populations and issues related to the social determinants of health (SDoH).

The data also reveals:

  • Black beneficiaries continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups, with 670 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries
  • Beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid–who often suffer from multiple chronic conditions and have low incomes–were hospitalized at a rate more than 4.5 times higher than beneficiaries with Medicare only (719 versus 153 per 100,000)
  • Beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other segments of the Medicare population, with 1,911 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries, compared with 241 per 100,000 for aged and 226 per 100,000 for disabled
  • CMS paid $2.8 billion in Medicare fee-for-service claims for COVID-related hospitalizations, or an average of $25,255 per beneficiary