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Largest Study of Sepsis Cases Among Medicare Beneficiaries Finds Significant Burden

U.S. hospitals saw a 40 percent increase in the rate of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with sepsis over the past seven years, and in just 2018 had an estimated cost to Medicare of more than $41.5 billion according to a study by researchers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published in the journal Critical Care Medicine.

The research team analyzed data from all Medicare beneficiaries from 2012 through 2018. The study included more than 9.5 million inpatient hospital admissions, making this the largest sepsis study based on contemporary Medicare data to be published in the United States.

Researchers determined that the increase in sepsis was not due to the growing number of American seniors enrolling in Medicare. From 2012 through 2018, the U.S. saw a 22 percent increase in the Medicare enrollment rates but a 40 percent increase in the rate of sepsis-related hospital admissions among beneficiaries.

The analysis explored the impact of sepsis severity on health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. Despite declining mortality overall, 10 percent of patients with non-severe forms of sepsis died while in the hospital or within a week of discharge, and 60 percent with non-severe forms of sepsis died within three years. Outcomes were worse among patients with the most severe form of sepsis known as septic shock.

The study also identified the high costs of treating sepsis. Although the inpatient costs of care per stay among Medicare beneficiaries decreased between 2012 and 2018, the increase in the number of patients with sepsis led to an estimated overall increase in Medicare spending from $27.7 billion in 2012 to more than $41.5 billion in 2018 for inpatient hospital admissions and subsequent skilled nursing facility care.

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