Data on Pandemic Disparities Keep Mounting

Relatives mourn Charles Jackson Jr., who died from COVID-19. Los Angeles, April 15, 2020. Image: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Getty
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Relatives mourn Charles Jackson Jr., who died from COVID-19. Los Angeles, April 15, 2020. Image: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Getty

Black Medicare patients with COVID-19 are nearly 4X as likely as whites to end up in a hospital, NPR Shots reports, citing federal billing records data released yesterday.

COVID-19 has also disproportionately affected Hispanic and Asian Americans, according to Medicare claims filed so far. And, those eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare—including low-income older adults and some people with disabilities—were more likely to be hospitalized than other Medicare beneficiaries.

The data confirm “long understood and stubbornly persistent disparities in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups,” says Seema Verma, administrator for the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. She notes that Black and Hispanic beneficiaries were also more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

And yet: Axios revealed evidence that testing is another way “racial inequities baked into the U.S. health care system are a defining feature of this pandemic.”

Communities with at least 75% white populations have more access to COVID-19 testing (1 testing site for every 14,500 people) than communities of color (one site for every 23,300 people). And in rural areas, 35% of the Black population lives in “highly vulnerable testing desert,” according to The Surgo Foundation.

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