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Public insurance claims data can save lives

COVID-19-Related Deaths And Excess Deaths Among Medicare Fee-For-Service Beneficiaries
Health Affairs
June 2021
By Wafa W. Tarazi, et al.

The experience with COVID-19 has brought to light a number of data limitations in the health care system. … Medicare’s administrative and claims data systems can support detailed analyses of morbidity, mortality, service use, and spending for beneficiaries in Medicare fee-for-service, to inform the nation’s response to COVID. … these data can be accessed and analyzed on a near-real-time basis to inform the response to future public health emergencies. Similar data for the rest of the population, however, are not readily available despite the efforts of some states to create all-payer claims databases.

Developing policies and methods around data collection and access will be important to address the consequences of future pandemics and other health emergencies.

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Racial/Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Exposure Risk, Testing, And Cases At The Subcounty Level In California
Health Affairs
May 12, 2021
By Marissa B. Reitsma, et al

Tracking COVID-19 disparities and developing equity-focused public health programming that mitigates the effects of systemic racism can help improve health outcomes among California’s populations of color.

Comment by Don McCanne

Medicare’s administrative and claims data systems support detailed analyses of morbidity, mortality, service use, and spending for beneficiaries in Medicare fee-for-service that was used to inform the nation’s response to COVID. Similar data for the rest of the population was not available through the fragmented administrative system prevailing in the remainder of our health care financing system. It would have been had we had a single payer Medicare for All system.

Routine data can make a real difference, if comprehensive and quickly available.. “Tracking COVID-19 disparities and developing equity-focused public health programming that mitigates the effects of systemic racism can help improve health outcomes among… populations of color.”

The current pandemic has certainly reinforced the importance of public health, and, by extension, the importance of enacting and implementing a single payer system.

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