Deaths for non-COVID-19 diagnoses up from pre-pandemic, Medicare study finds

Compared to pre-pandemic, mortality rates after hospitalization for non-COVID-19 illnesses were substantially higher among more than 8 million Medicare recipients in 2020-21, according to a study published March 9 by JAMA Network Open.

Researchers examined all Medicare claims from January 2019 through September 2021. This consisted of more than 8 million individuals with non-COVID-19 medical admissions with fee-for-service Medicare insurance at 4,626 U.S. hospitals. 

Five findings:

1. Admissions for non-COVID-19 diagnoses fell sharply in March and April 2020 and remained lower through September 2021. 

2. Mortality rates after hospitalization for non-COVID-19 illnesses were substantially higher, particularly for Black individuals, Hispanic individuals and those with low socioeconomic status.

3. The increases in mortality were greater at lower-quality hospitals and hospitals with high COVID-19 caseloads.  

4. Mortality for non-COVID-19 patients in the 30 days after admission increased from 9.43 percent in 2019 to 11.48 percent from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.

5. The prolonged increases in mortality rates after hospitalization for non-COVID-19 illnesses suggest a need for improved access to hospital care for non-COVID-19 patients, the researchers concluded.

 

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