Sepsis Among Medicare Beneficiaries: 4. Precoronavirus Disease 2019 Update January 2012-February 2020

Charles E. Frank, Timothy G. Buchman*, Steven Q. Simpson, Kimberly L. Sciarretta, George E. Plopper, Kristen P. Finne, Nicole Sowers, Michael Collier, Saurabh Chavan, Cheng Lin, Ibijoke Oke, Kiersten E. Rhodes, Aathira Santhosh, Steve Chu, Thomas E. MacUrdy, Sandeep A. Patel, Gary L. Disbrow, Jeffrey A. Kelman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To provide updated information on the burdens of sepsis during acute inpatient admissions for Medicare beneficiaries. DESIGN: Analysis of paid Medicare claims via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services DataLink Project. SETTING: All U.S. acute-care hospitals, excluding federally operated hospitals (Veterans Administration and Defense Health Agency). Patients: All Medicare beneficiaries, January 2012 - February 2020, with an explicit sepsis diagnostic code assigned during an inpatient admission. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The count of Medicare Part A/B (fee-for-service) plus Medicare Advantage inpatient sepsis admissions rose from 981,027 (CY2012) to 1,700,433 (CY 2019). The proportion of total admissions with sepsis in the Medicare Advantage population rose from 21.43% to 35.39%, reflecting the increasing beneficiary proportion enrolled in Medicare Advantage. In CY2019, 6-month mortality rates in Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries for sepsis continued to decline, but remained high: 59.9% for septic shock, 35.5% for severe sepsis, 30.8% for sepsis attributed to a specific organism, and 26.5% for unspecified sepsis. Total fee-for-service-only inpatient hospital costs rose from $17.79B (CY2012) to $22.98B (CY2019). We estimated that the aggregate cost of sepsis hospital care for the entire U.S. population was at least $57.47B in 2019. Inclusion of 14 months' (January 2019 - February 2020) newer data exposed new trends: the cost per patient, number of admissions, and fraction of patients with sepsis labeled as present on admission inflected around November 2015, coincident with the change to International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition, and introduction of the Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock Management Bundle (SEP-1) metric. CONCLUSIONS: Sepsis among Medicare beneficiaries precoronavirus disease 2019 imposed immense burdens upon patients, their families, and the taxpayers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2058-2069
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Medicare
  • Mortality
  • cost
  • sepsis


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