13 Diseases That Are Common in Seniors Who Get COVID-19

Senior in a mask in the hospital with COVID-19
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Seniors with 13 chronic conditions are especially vulnerable to ending up hospitalized for COVID-19, according to newly updated data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS says that more than 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, between the start of 2020 and June 19, 2021. Of those beneficiaries, more than 1.2 million were hospitalized as inpatients with a COVID-19 diagnosis during that period.

Those numbers, released in late August, reflect cases and hospitalizations that CMS knew about as of July 16. The federal agency notes that all data in its latest report will continue to change as CMS processes more Medicare health insurance claims.

The data reveals that 13 chronic conditions are most common among the Medicare beneficiaries who have been hospitalized:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): 82%
  • Hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids such as cholesterol): 66%
  • Chronic kidney disease: 60%
  • Ischemic heart disease: 50%
  • Diabetes: 50%
  • Anemia: 49%
  • Rheumatoid arthritis/osteoarthritis: 47%
  • Heart failure: 38%
  • Obesity: 34%
  • Depression: 34%
  • Alzheimer’s disease/dementia: 32%
  • Peripheral vascular disease: 30%
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): 26%

Of the Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized with COVID-19, 17% died and 37% were discharged to their homes. The others moved from the hospital to skilled nursing facilities (18%), home health care (17%), hospice (5%) or another health care facility (3%), CMS says.

About half of the hospital stays (53%) lasted for fewer than eight days, while 11% percent of the stays were at least 21 days.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 and older or who have disabilities or certain medical conditions.

People of color, the elderly and the poor are more often affected

The coronavirus disease appears to be affecting people of color, older adults and the poor in greater numbers, and that disparity also shows up in the Medicare data.

CMS says COVID-19 hospitalization rates are especially high for:

  • Black beneficiaries (3,437 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Hispanic beneficiaries (2,983 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries who are age 85 or older (3,686 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries who are age 75 to 84 (2,344 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, the government insurance program for people with low incomes (4,098 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)

By comparison, the overall rate for all Medicare-only beneficiaries was 1,576 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

Regardless of your race, ethnicity, age or financial standing, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Some measures are obvious or have gotten a lot of media attention. You can find helpful tips in the following stories:

Other ways to keep the coronavirus at bay might be less obvious. You can learn more about them in:

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