ByL Edwin Mora
United States hospitals have a “perverse” monetary “incentive” to increase their count of coronavirus fatalities, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s director Robert Redfield indicated under questioning from a Republican lawmaker during a House panel hearing on Friday.
Asked to comment on what Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) described as the “perverse incentive” during a hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Dr. Redfield responded:
“I think you’re correct in that we’ve seen this in other disease processes too, really in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack, but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the [classification] for HIV because there’s greater reimbursement.
“So I do think there’s some reality to that. When it comes to death reporting, though, ultimately, it’s how the physician defines it in the death certificate and … we review all of those death certificates.
“So I think, probably it is less operable in the cause of death, although I won’t say there are not some cases. I do think though [that] when it comes to hospital reimbursement issues or individuals that get discharged, there could be some play in that for sure.”
According to Congressman Luetkemeyer, Adm. Brett Giroir from the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has conceded that there is an economic incentive for hospitals to inflate their coronavirus fatalities.
Giroir “acknowledged that the statistics he is getting from the states are over-inflated,” the Republican lawmakers said.
The admiral testified earlier during Friday’s hearing but was no longer present during Luetkemeyer’s questions about coronavirus deaths.
Across the United States, the seven-day average number of new infections had plateaued as of Thursday evening and even begun to come down in recent days. Meanwhile, new fatalities reported daily, and their seven-day average, continue to go up, but remain below peak levels.
There is a lag of about three weeks or more between infection and death.
As of mid-day Friday, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) had infected nearly 4.5 million people and killed over 150,000, the Johns Hopkins University tracker revealed.