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

Senior lying in a hospital bed
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Seniors with 12 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 1.9 million Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, between the start of last year and Nov. 21. Of those beneficiaries, more than 493,000 were hospitalized as inpatients with a COVID-19 diagnosis during that period.

Those numbers, released in mid-January, reflect cases and hospitalizations that CMS knew about as of Dec. 18. 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 12 chronic conditions are most common among the Medicare beneficiaries who have been hospitalized:

  • Hypertension: 79%
  • Hyperlipidemia: 61%
  • Chronic kidney disease: 49%
  • Diabetes: 49%
  • Rheumatoid arthritis/osteoarthritis: 46%
  • Ischemic heart disease: 45%
  • Anemia: 44%
  • Heart failure: 33%
  • Depression: 33%
  • Alzheimer’s disease/dementia: 32%
  • Obesity: 32%
  • Peripheral vascular disease: 31%

Of the beneficiaries who were hospitalized, 19% died and 35% were discharged to their homes. The others moved from the hospital to skilled nursing facilities (20%), home health care (15%), hospice (5%) or another health care facility (4%), CMS says.

About half of the hospital stays 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 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 (1,569 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Hispanic beneficiaries (1,258 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries who are age 85 or older (1,436 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries who are age 75 to 84 (917 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)
  • Beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, the government insurance program for people with low incomes (1,794 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries)

By comparison, the overall rate for all Medicare-only beneficiaries was 527 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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