News Release

The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Hit People of Color the Hardest, Including Among People With Medicare

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the stark racial and ethnic health inequities in the U.S., including among Medicare beneficiaries. Among this group, people of color, including older adults and others on Medicare, account for disproportionate shares of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, according to data presented in a new KFF report about racial and ethnic disparities in health among people with Medicare.

Older Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults were nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as older White adults. COVID-19 cases among Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries were 1.6 times higher than the rate observed among White beneficiaries, and COVID-19 cases among American Indian and Alaska Native beneficiaries were 1.7 times higher than among White beneficiaries, the data show. Hospitalization rates for Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native Medicare beneficiaries were at least double the rate among White beneficiaries.

In addition to pandemic-related data, the new report – with more than 20 charts – present the latest data on racial and ethnic health inequities among Medicare beneficiaries in a wide range of areas, including life expectancy, access to care, service utilization, the prevalence of chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, as well as demographic and socioeconomic inequities.

Also new from KFF is an analysis that looks at whether education narrows the gap in wealth among older White, Black, and Hispanic adults. It finds striking differences in median per capita savings and home equity among White, Black, and Hispanic seniors with similar levels of education. It also finds that differences in median per capita income among White, Black, and Hispanic adults ages 65 and older are narrower among people with similar levels of education, but among college graduates, the gap in income is relatively wide between Hispanic and White seniors.

For more data and analysis about racial disparities in health, and about the Medicare population, visit

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.