Nursing Home Deaths Increase 32 Percent In 2020

The rate of deaths in nursing homes rose 32 percent in 2020, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). Deaths spiked at the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, and again in December after many lockdowns were lifted, but vaccination rates were low.

“Among all Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes, 22.5 percent died in 2020, which is an increase of one-third from 2019 when 17.0 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes died. This 32-percent increase amounts to 169,291 more deaths in 2020 than if the mortality rate had remained the same as in 2019,” according to the report.

David Grabowski, a Harvard professor and expert on long-term care, told the Associated Press, “This was not individuals who were going to die anyway. We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths.”

HHS-OIG’s analysis found that two in five Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were either diagnosed with COVID-19 or likely contracted the virus in 2020.

Black, Hispanic, and Asian nursing home residents were more likely to contract COVID-19, according to the report. About half of these Medicare-beneficiary populations had or likely had COVID.

Residents who received both Medicare and Medicaid benefits also had higher rates of infection and mortality. “Previous research has shown that dually eligible beneficiaries are generally poorer and sicker—having low incomes and multiple chronic conditions to manage—compared to other Medicare beneficiaries,” according to the report.

This concern was highlighted early in the pandemic by New Mexico Human Services Secretary, David Scrase, who warned that COVID-19 infections in New Mexico were seven times higher in low-income areas. 971 New Mexico nursing home residents have died from COVID-19.

If you are concerned about the care your loved one received at a New Mexico nursing home during the pandemic, contact our experienced attorneys for a consultation at (505) 295-2245.

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