Image of a senior man being visited by a clinician, both wearing face masks

Despite nursing home residents accounting for just 2% of the Medicare population, the group is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 when compared to community beneficiaries, according to preliminary findings released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Tuesday.

The CMS study found that the Medicare nursing home resident population accounted for 22% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, and that residents were 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease compared to beneficiaries in the community. 

The data could lead to more CMS investigations on how facility quality relates to disparities among Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes and how at-risk residents may be for adverse outcomes.  

Nursing home residents averaged 5,421 cases per 100,000 between March 2020 and December 2020, while average monthly cases among community beneficiaries were 388 per 100,000 during the same time frame. 

Nursing home residents made up 19% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and were 12 times more likely to be hospitalized for the disease. Average monthly deaths for the group was 1,315 per 100,000 from March to December compared to 113 per 100,000 for beneficiaries in the community. 

Additionally, researchers observed that 43% of Medicare beneficiaries that were admitted to the hospital from a nursing home died within 30 days. That’s compared to 22% of community admissions. 

The agency said it plans to assess the extent to which COVID-19 related outcomes are associated with facility-level characteristics, such as quality and safety, and the relationship between disparities and COVID-19 outcomes within and across nursing home care. 

“Better understanding the reasons for such disparities in COVID19 related outcomes among nursing home residents before, during, and after hospital discharge may also yield insights for improving equity among all beneficiaries who require long-term care services,” the agency concluded.