Why are the Elderly Particularly Vulnerable to Winding Up in the Hospital with COVID-19?

Greeves & Roethler, PLC

New Medicare data reveals which chronic conditions make seniors especially vulnerable to ending up in the hospital with COVID-19.

Seniors with five chronic conditions are especially vulnerable to finding themselves in the hospital, because of exposure to the coronavirus, according to new data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

MoneyTalksNews’ recent article entitled “Seniors With These 5 Diseases Are Most Often Hospitalized for Coronavirus” reports that CMS says more than 325,000 Original Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 1 and May 16. Of those, 111,000 were hospitalized during that time.

The CMS data shows that five chronic conditions were most commonly found among the Original Medicare beneficiaries who had been hospitalized:

  • Hypertension: 79%
  • Hyperlipidemia: 60%
  • Chronic kidney disease: 50%
  • Anemia: 50%
  • Diabetes: 50%

Of Medicaid beneficiaries who were hospitalized, 28% died in the hospital, and 27% were discharged to their homes. The other patients moved from the hospital to skilled nursing facilities (21%) or other health care settings. The research shows that 50% of the hospital stays lasted for fewer than eight days, while 9% of the stays were no less than 21 days.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for those 65+. Original Medicare is the more common of two types of Medicare. The other is Medicare Advantage plans from private insurers approved to provide Medicare benefits.

The coronavirus appears to be affecting people of color, older adults, and the poor in larger numbers, and that disparity also shows up in the Medicare data. CMS says COVID-19 hospitalization rates are especially high for:

  • Black beneficiaries (465 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Hispanic beneficiaries (258 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries who are age 85 or older (379 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, the government insurance program for people with low incomes (473 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)

By comparison with that last group, the rate for beneficiaries enrolled only in Medicare is 112 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. However, no matter your race, ethnicity, age or financial standing, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the coronavirus. Wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing.

Reference: MoneyTalksNews (July 4, 2020) “Seniors With These 5 Diseases Are Most Often Hospitalized for Coronavirus”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Medicare, Medicaid, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Disability, Elder Care

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