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Large Increase Seen in U.S. Nursing Home Deaths in 2020

Last Updated: June 22, 2021.

TUESDAY, June 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- There was a 32 percent increase in deaths among Medicare patients in U.S. nursing homes last year, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the report, there were 169,291 more deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes in 2020 than in 2019, and about four in 10 had or likely had COVID-19 in 2020. Compared with 2019, death rates were higher every month last year, with two spikes, in April (81,484 deaths) and in December (74,299 deaths).

"We knew this was going to be bad, but I don't think even those of us who work in this area thought it was going to be this bad," Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski, Ph.D., told the Associated Press. The nationally recognized expert on long-term care reviewed the report for the news agency. "This was not individuals who were going to die anyway," he noted. "We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths."

The new report includes data from early in 2020, making it the most comprehensive to date from the government. Nursing homes were not required to alert Medicare about COVID-19 cases and deaths that occurred before May 8, 2020, the AP reported.

The report uncovered another fact: COVID-19 cases and deaths among Asian American patients tracked with the more severe impacts seen among Blacks and Latinos, the AP reported. In fact, Asian Medicare enrollees in nursing homes saw the highest increase in death rates, with 27 percent dying in 2020 compared with 17 percent the previous year. For Whites, the death rate grew to 24 percent in 2020 from 18 percent in 2019, a significant increase but not as pronounced. Death rates for Hispanic and Black patients were 23 percent last year, up from 15 percent in 2019.

Associated Press Article

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