Top 5 Takeaways

  1. Higher Hospitalization Rates in Disability-Eligible Medicare Beneficiaries: COVID-19-associated hospitalization rates were about 50% higher in disability-eligible beneficiaries compared to those eligible due to age, with rates increasing across age groups in both categories.
  2. Disproportionate Impact on American Indian or Alaska Native Persons: Among persons with disabilities, American Indian or Alaska Native individuals experienced the highest rate of COVID-19-associated hospitalization.
  3. Underlying Conditions and Mortality: The study observed a higher prevalence of underlying conditions among hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities, although in-hospital mortality rates were lower compared to age-eligible patients.
  4. Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Hospitalization rates for COVID-19 were significantly higher among disability-eligible beneficiaries across all racial and ethnic groups, except for American Indian or Alaska Native individuals.
  5. Importance of COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment: Enhancing access to and the implementation of COVID-19 prevention and treatment strategies, including vaccination, is crucial for mitigating severe outcomes among persons with disabilities.

Original Article Author and Citation

Corresponding Author

A. Blythe Ryerson,

Suggested Citation

Yuan Y, Thierry JM, Bull-Otterson L, et al. COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Among Medicare Beneficiaries With and Without Disabilities — United States, January 1, 2020–November 20, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:791–796. DOI:


This MMWR article investigates the impact of COVID-19 on Medicare beneficiaries, comparing those eligible due to disability and those eligible due to age. It found that disability-eligible beneficiaries experienced higher rates of COVID-19 incidence and hospitalization than their age-eligible counterparts. Among racial and ethnic groups, American Indian or Alaska Native persons faced the highest hospitalization rates.


The study utilized Medicare fee-for-service claims data, Medicare Advantage Plans encounter data, and enrollment information to identify COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations among beneficiaries. It analyzed data by comparing disability-eligible (aged ≥18 with disability) and age-eligible (aged ≥65) groups.


COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on disability-eligible Medicare beneficiaries underscores the need for focused public health strategies. The study highlights significant disparities across racial and ethnic groups, particularly among American Indian or Alaska Native individuals.


Efforts to enhance COVID-19 prevention and treatment for Medicare beneficiaries, especially those with disabilities, are essential. This includes improving access to vaccinations and tailoring public health strategies to address the specific needs of this vulnerable population.

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