Nursing home deaths spiked in 2020, watchdog report shows

In one of the most in-depth looks at how nursing homes were impacted by the coronavirus, a new government watchdog report shows deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes increased last year by 32 percent compared to 2019.

That increase amounts to 169,291 more deaths in 2020 than if the mortality rate had remained the same as in 2019.

The report showed how the number of beneficiaries in nursing homes who had or likely had COVID-19 increased dramatically over the course of just a few weeks during the spring of 2020. In March, 492 Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes per day were diagnosed as having or likely having COVID-19.

By April, that number had increased almost tenfold, to an average of more than 4,700 new cases per day.

Each month of 2020 had a higher mortality rate than the corresponding month a year earlier.

In April alone, a total of 81,484 Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes died. That is almost 30,000 more deaths — an average of about 1,000 per day — compared to 2019. Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were almost twice as likely to die in April 2020 compared to April 2019.