Income is a potent force along with race in determining who among the nation’s vulnerable, older population has been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a federal analysis that lays bare stark disparities in the pandemic’s toll.
The findings released Monday are based on billing records for people on Medicare who have contracted the virus. They echo the commonly understood pattern that black Americans are more likely to test positive for the virus and to be hospitalized for covid-19, the disease it causes, than other racial and ethnic groups. But they also point to the role of poverty as the pandemic has sped through U.S. communities in the winter and spring.
Individuals covered by Medicare, the vast federal insurance program for older Americans, who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, the public insurance safety net, were four times more likely to have been infected or hospitalized with the coronavirus than those on Medicare alone, according to billing records from more than 325,000 cases from January through mid-May.