Hospital payments and COVID-19 death count

Hospital payments and COVID-19 death count

By Perly Viasmensky

Las Vegas Tribune

I had the opportunity to read an old article from April 2020 written by Angelo Fichera in Factcheck entitled “Hospital payments and the COVID-19 death count.

Q: Are hospitals inflating the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths so they can be paid more? 

A: Recent legislation pays hospitals higher Medicare rates for COVID-19 patients and treatment, but there is no evidence of fraudulent reporting. 

(Before I continue with the article, I want to give my opinion. Yes, I firmly believe that hospitals are inflating cases to collect more money, especially here in Nevada.) 

Are hospitals getting $13,000 per patient if they write on the patient’s chart that the diagnosis is COVID19, and $35,000 for each patient if they are on ventilators? 

I keep seeing posts in social media claiming that hospitals are overstating COVID-19 deaths because they are paid more for those deaths. … The YouTube video link here is attributed to Fox News with the headline “US: Hospitals Get Paid More to List Patients as COVID-19…” Can you provide any clarification? 
 

FULL ANSWER 

A Minnesota state senator’s recent interview on Fox News about Medicare payments for COVID-19 hospitalizations has generated a frenzy of headlines on social media suggesting that hospitals may have a financial motivation when it comes to classifying cases or deaths as related to COVID-19. 

One website ran a story headlined, “US Hospitals Getting Paid More to Label Cause of Death as ‘Coronavirus.’“ It called the information “disturbing” and the interview “bone-chilling.” 

Numerous readers have asked us about such claims, some of which imply that hospitals are making money by simply listing patients as having the disease — when in fact the payments referenced are for treating patients. And while some of the posts imply that fraud may be afoot, multiple experts told us that such theories of hospitals deliberately miscoding patients as COVID-19 are not supported by any evidence. 

(Yes, there is clear evidence, and if anybody has any doubt, they can ask me.) 

The initial comment was made by Minnesota State Sen. Scott Jensen, a family physician, who spoke with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on April 8 about the idea that the number of COVID-19 deaths may be inflated. Jensen was responding to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, who — while answering a reporter’s question about that theory — said, “You will always have conspiracy theories when you have very challenging public health crises. They are nothing but distractions.” 

Jensen, April 8: I would remind him that anytime health care intersects with dollars it gets awkward. Right now Medicare has determined that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital, you’ll get paid $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator, you get $39,000, three times as much. Nobody can tell me after 35 years in the world of medicine that sometimes those kinds of things impact what we do. 

(You don’t need several years in the world of medicine or even going to medical school to know that COVID is nothing but a financial business, exclusively for the benefit of hospitals and providers. Otherwise, how do you explain that hospitals, providers and nurses refused to give a second COVID test when the family requested it, and immediately decided to put the patient on a ventilator. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY is the name of the game.) 

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Perly Viasmensky is the General Manager of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Perly Viasmensky, email her at pviasmensky@lasvegastribune.com.

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