One-Third of Medicare Beneficiaries Hospitalized for COVID-19 Have Died or Been Discharged to Hospice, New Data Show

June 29, 2020


Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Policy Analyst


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One-third of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for COVID-19 have either died or been discharged to hospice care, according to a Medicare data snapshot released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on June 22. The snapshot provides insight into the significant burden and disparate health outcomes from COVID-19 experienced by older adults.

According to the report, there were 109,607 COVID-19 hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries between Jan. 1 and May 16, or a rate of 175 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries. Only 27% of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized were discharged to go home without additional medical assistance, as shown in the graph below.

Many were discharged to skilled nursing facilities (21%), another health care facility (5%), or assisted living/nursing homes (2%). Additionally, 11% of beneficiaries were discharged and required assistance from a home health program. Moving from inpatient hospitalization to another healthcare facility may reflect a high level of severity of illness within the population, along with the need for additional recovery time under the care of medical professionals. However, these data do not indicate how many of these beneficiaries were already living in these care settings prior to hospitalization.

The report also includes demographic data on Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized due to COVID-19, and the data clearly show that minority beneficiaries are impacted disproportionately from COVID-19. Black beneficiaries were almost four times as likely (465 per 100,000) and Hispanic beneficiaries were twice as likely (258 per 100,000) to require hospitalization than white beneficiaries (123 per 100,000). Asian beneficiaries were also more likely to be hospitalized than white beneficiaries, at a rate of 187 per 100,000.

CMS notes the report will be updated on a monthly basis. We will continue to monitor updated report releases to determine the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the country’s Medicare population.