- A new report from the HHS inspector general compared deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes in 2019 and 2020.
- The researchers found that 22.5% of Medicare beneficiaries died in care centers in 2020, a 32% increase from the 17% who died in 2019.
- Mortality rates were higher each month last year than in 2019, with particularly devastating spikes in April and December
- Medicare beneficiaries age 85 and older saw the biggest increase in death rates, ranging from 23% to 30%.
- Asian Medicare enrollment in nursing homes saw the largest increase in mortality, with 27% of deaths in 2020 compared to 17% in the previous year.
On Tuesday, a government watchdog reported that deaths of Medicare patients in nursing homes rose last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general found that 22.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries died in care centers in 2020.
This represents a 32 percent spike from 2019 when 17 percent of Medicare beneficiaries died in nursing homes and an increase of 169,291 more deaths.
What’s more, two in five Medicare recipients in nursing homes had or possibly had COVID-19 in the past year, reflecting the virus’s devastating spread among the nation’s most vulnerable.
“We knew it would be bad, but I don’t think those of us who work in this field thought it would be that bad,” said Dr David Grabowski, a professor of health policy at Harvard University. Reporting for the Associated Press.
‘It wasn’t someone who was going to die anyway. We are talking about a really high number of deaths.
A new report from the watchdog found that 22.5% of Medicare beneficiaries died in care centers in 2020, a 32% increase from the 17% who died in 2019. Image: A patient is loaded into an ambulance by emergency medical workers outside Cobble Hill Health. Center in Brooklyn, New York, April 2020
Mortality rates were higher each month last year than in 2019, with particularly devastating spikes in April and December
Investigators used a generally accepted method to estimate ‘excess’ deaths in a group of people after a catastrophic event.
This did not involve checking individual death certificates of Medicare patients, but comparing total deaths in nursing homes to levels recorded in the previous year.
The technique was used to estimate deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and in New York City after the first coronavirus surge last spring.
It does not state the cause of death, but is seen as a barometer of the effect. so
The report found that the death rate was higher every month last year, when there were two devastating spikes eight months apart, compared to 2019.
In April of last year, a total of 81,484 Medicare patients died in nursing homes, or about 6.3 percent — much higher than the 3.5 percent who died in April 2019.
Eight months later, after lockdowns and frantic efforts to expand testing – but before vaccines became widely available – nursing home patients scored 74,299 in December 2019, compared to 3.8 percent in December 2020 deaths, or a staggering 6.2 percent.
“It’s happening long after it became clear that nursing homes were particularly vulnerable,” said Nancy Harrison, a deputy regional inspector general who worked on the report.
‘We really have to see it. Why did they remain so insecure?’
Federal investigators are still trying to document the chain of causes and effects.
There was no immediate response from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which sets standards for nursing homes.
The report found that there has been an increase in mortality in every age group between 2019 and 2020.
The biggest increase was seen among Medicare beneficiaries ages 85 and older, who died at 23 percent compared to 30 percent in 2019.
The report found that the number of Medicare beneficiaries infected in nursing homes rose from 21,000 in May to about 419,00 in June.
Report found that 13 times more patients were getting infected with COVID-19 in December as compared to March
The next biggest increase was in the 75-to-84 age group, increasing from 16 percent to 21 percent.
Similar increases in both the 65 to 74 age group and the under 65 age group ranged from 12 percent to 16 percent and eight percent to 12 percent, respectively.
In another new finding, the report showed that the cases and deaths of Asian American patients were tracked with more severe effects seen among blacks and Latinos.
Indeed, Asian Medicare enrollment in nursing homes saw the highest increase in mortality, with 27 percent of deaths in 2020 compared to 17 percent in the previous year.
For whites, the death rate rose to 24 percent in 2020, up from 18 percent in 2019, a significant increase but not as pronounced.
The mortality rate for Hispanic and black patients was 23 percent last year, up from 15 percent in 2019.
The inspector general’s findings about Asians uncover a puzzle for the researchers, said Tamara Konetzka, a health economist at the University of Chicago, who also reviewed the report for the AP.
The reasons for higher cases and deaths among blacks, Hispanics and Asians are not necessarily linked to race and ethnicity. Instead, minority patients may be clustered in homes located in communities with more severe outbreaks.
Medicare beneficiaries aged 85 and older saw the largest increase in mortality, while those aged 74 or younger saw the lowest increase
A health expert said minority patients may be clustered in homes located in communities with more severe outbreaks, leading to higher infection rates.
The report also found that patients in low-income nursing homes covered by Medicare and Medicaid were more likely to have COVID-19.
The infection rate reached 56 percent for that group, and 26 percent died.
Although the facilities are closed in the month of March…