Impact of COVID‐19 on Cost, Utilization, and Quality among Medicare Beneficiaries

Older patient with doctor

The COVID‐19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Medicare beneficiaries. Recent data, through November 2021, indicate that there were over 6 million COVID‐19 cases among the country’s roughly 64 million Medicare beneficiaries, which equates to nearly one COVID-19 case per 10 beneficiaries. Moreover, racial and ethnic disparities in mortality among Medicare beneficiaries widened during the pandemic, as seen among hospitalizations for both COVID-19 and other causes.

In addition to direct impacts from COVID‐19 infections, the pandemic has resulted in major changes to U.S. care delivery. Early in the pandemic, there was a massive decrease in elective healthcare utilization. At the same time, there was a monumental expansion in the use of telemedicine for routine encounters with both primary care and specialist healthcare providers in an effort to decrease COVID‐19 transmission risk but maintain access to care.

This project aims to better understand how the combination of potentially delayed care and rise in telehealth shaped the utilization, cost, and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries with ambulatory care sensitive conditions. Our multidisciplinary research team uses CMS Research Identifiable Files in the CCW Virtual Research Data Center and data spanning pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. The team draws on a variety of claims data files to generate insights about patterns of care for beneficiaries with Medicare fee-for-service and Part D coverage.

This work is funded by AIR Health’s Data Center Initiative to drive research on key health policy issues.