COVID-19 disease and cost burden especially high among older adults, particularly those of color.

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A retrospective observational study found that the COVID-19 disease burden among adults aged 65 years or older was substantially higher than in the general U.S. population, especially among those of non-White race/ethnicity. The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used Medicare claims data for 28.1 million fee-for-service beneficiaries to examine the characteristics and medical costs of older adults who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from April through December 2020. The data showed that the hospitalization rate was more than 60 times higher, and the mortality rate was 2.5 times higher (4.2%) for older adults compared to the general population. The average cost per COVID-19-related hospitalization was considerable ($21,752) among those older adults, but the costs of COVID-19-related hospitalization decreased with age for the 5 medical outcomes considered. According to the authors, possible reasons include higher mortality rates among older patients, resulting in shorter hospital stays and lower costs (inpatient length of stay was shorter among patients aged ?75 years than among those aged 65 to 74 years); the lower likelihood of younger adults to become seriously ill (those who reached the point of hospitalization may have had substantial risks and complications); and less aggressive care with increasing age.

The data also showed that people of color accounted for a disproportionate share of hospitalizations and deaths during the pandemic. Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander older adults had higher probability of death and receiving ventilator support during hospitalization than non-Hispanic White patients. This finding highlights the importance of identifying effective strategies to promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake among non-White persons aged 65 years or older to mitigate the increased disease and economic burden.

Provided by
American College of Physicians

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