Recent Medicare claims data further highlighted racial and socioeconomic health disparities amid the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the federal agency to issue a call for value-based care.
Preliminary data included total reported cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries from January 1 to May 16, 2020. The new data showed that black people were hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate nearly four times higher than whites, specifically 465 per 100,000 vs. 123, according to a CMS statement.
Hispanics had 258 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000, while Asians had 187 per 100,000, CMS wrote.
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“As we dig deeper into the data, we also discovered that race and ethnicity are far from the only story,” Seema Verma, CMS administrator, said in a tweet Monday. “The low socioeconomic level represents a powerful predictor of # COVID-19 complications.”
“The disparities in the data reflect long-standing challenges faced by minority communities and low-income older adults, many of whom face structural challenges to their health that go far beyond what is traditionally considered ‘medical’,” Verma said in a statement.
“Now more than ever, it is clear that our fee-for-service system is insufficient for the most vulnerable Americans because it limits payment to what happens inside a doctor’s office,” said Verma.
The administrator said that when valued care is implemented effectively, it encourages clinicians to care for the whole person and address the social risk factors that are so critical to the quality of life for beneficiaries.
The new data also showed that more than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries had a COVID-19 diagnosis within four months. Patients with end-stage kidney disease, or those with chronic kidney disease on dialysis, had the highest hospitalization rate among all Medicare beneficiaries with 1,341 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries.
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Beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid were reported to have a higher rate of COVID-19 infection, with 1,406 cases per 100,000 beneficiaries, while enrollment in Medicare only saw an infection rate of 325 cases per 100,000 beneficiaries.
Finally, the Center for Medicaid Services and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is developing a guide for states on ways to adopt a value-based payment design and strategies to address the social determinants of health for beneficiaries, including those who are eligible for both. In addition, the CMS Office of Minority Health will conduct a series of listening sessions with stakeholders responsible for providing care to racial and ethnic minorities.
These listening sessions aim to help refine CMS’s continued reach and work to improve future efforts on this topic.