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OIG on the Impact of COVID-19 on Nursing Home Residents

June 25, 2021

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a data snapshot detailing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes.  The OIG used Medicare claims data to find that of the roughly 3.1 million Medicare beneficiaries that were residents in nursing homes in 2020, 42% had or likely had COVID-19.  Additionally, the report found that the pandemic had a deadly effect on all Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes, not just those with COVID-19.  

For Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes, the snapshot reveals that:

  • The overall mortality rate in nursing homes rose over 32% in 2020, resulting in 162,921 more deaths in 2020 than if the mortality rate had remained the same in 2019.  In April alone, 30,000 more residents died in 2020 than in 2019.
  • Residents of color were more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than White residents. Additionally, although the mortality rates of all racial groups grew, people of color experienced the highest increase.
  • 56% of residents eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (“dual-eligibles”) had or likely had COVID-19, while the infection rate for Medicare-only residents was 29%.

For months, the Consumer Voice and other resident advocates have been drawing attention to the devastation COVID-19 has had on all nursing home residents.  In a report released in January, we documented the catastrophic effects of the ban on visitation.  The OIG report confirms that COVID-19 resulted in increased harm and deaths of all Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes, not just residents with COVID-19.   Much of that harm persists today, as residents continue to be denied sufficient access to their families and short staffing continues.

The OIG report states that significant steps must be taken to avoid a repeat of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This month, Consumer Voice and other resident advocates released a framework for reform in nursing homes that details actions that should be taken to protect nursing home residents.  We urge state and federal governments to act quickly and decisively to implement these recommendations. 

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