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Pallone Urges Verma to Immediately Release CMS Data on Health Disparities Among COVID-19 Patients

Apr 15, 2020
Press Release
“Without robust data, we are unprepared to adequately ensure racial disparities in care are not perpetuated in our response to COVID

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) wrote to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today urging the agency to immediately release demographic data on the health outcomes of COVID-19 based on race, ethnicity and gender. 

According to currently available data, individuals from racial and ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  In New York City, Latino and African American residents had double the age-adjusted death rates as compared to white residents.  In Chicago, 64.6 percent of deaths and 49.6 percent of total cases are among African American residents even though African Americans only make up approximately 30 percent of the city’s population.

“This data is alarming and demonstrates in real time the persistent racial disparities in our health care system,” Pallone wrote to Verma.  “The implications of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority communities cannot be fully understood or addressed until more comprehensive information, like the vast Medicare billing data available to CMS, is analyzed and publicly released.”  

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 hospitalization rates and patient characteristics suggested “black populations might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” However, CDC noted that additional data is needed to confirm, “These findings, including the potential impact of both sex and race on COVID-19-associated hospitalization rates.”

Pallone continued, “CMS has access to the data that can yield the needed surveillance information to confirm these findings and provide public health researchers, health care providers, and the general public with the critical data they need to better understand and respond to this pandemic.  Without robust data, we are unprepared to adequately ensure racial disparities in care are not perpetuated in our response to COVID-19.  For this reason, I strongly urge you to immediately make public the demographic information available to CMS that will inform our communities about the nationwide outcomes of COVID-19.”

Pallone also requested a staff briefing from CMS by April 29th to address a series of follow up questions on the agency’s efforts to better utilize data on racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes.

Read the letter to Administrator Verma HERE.