COVID-19: Are doctors manufacturing a high death toll to make more money?
(CNN)President Donald Trump on Friday baselessly claimed that doctors are inflating the coronavirus death count for monetary gain while cases, hospitalizations and deaths surge across the country.
“Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right? I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say ‘I’m sorry but everybody dies of Covid,’ ” Trump said, without citing any evidence, at a rally in Waterford Township, Michigan.
There is no evidence for the President’s claim and the statement represents a stunning attack on medical workers as the country faces its worst public health emergency in more than 100 years. As of Friday evening, more than 90,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19, a new daily high, and at least 929 deaths have been reported, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University. Two states, South Dakota and Wyoming, reported their highest daily death tolls on Thursday.
Medical experts have long predicted that the fall and winter would bring spikes in coronavirus cases as temperatures dropped across the country and people began spending more time indoors, where the virus can more easily spread. The country is now experiencing that spike — the five days with the most reported Covid-19 cases have all come in the last week.
There is no evidence that suggests hospitals or doctors are inflating their coronavirus numbers. According to new research published this month, there were 20% more deaths from March 1 through August 1 than normally would be expected.
The American Medical Association, without naming the President, condemned claims that physicians inflate the number of Covid-19 patients they treat — calling such rumors “malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided.”
“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting COVID-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge,” Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a written statement.
“Throughout this pandemic, physicians, nurses, and frontline health care workers have risked their health, their safety and their lives to treat their patients and defeat a deadly virus,” Bailey added.
During his campaign stop, Trump claimed that other countries attribute deaths among coronavirus patients with underlying conditions to other factors, but in the United States, doctors choose Covid-19 because they get additional funds.
“In Germany and other places, if you have a heart attack, or if you have cancer, you’re terminally ill, you catch Covid, they say you die of cancer, you died of heart attack. With us, when in doubt choose Covid. It’s true, no, it’s true. Now they’ll say ‘oh that’s terrible what he said,’ but that’s true. It’s like $2,000 more so you get more money,” Trump said.
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However, if someone who has a pre-existing condition gets Covid and then dies, their cause of death would be Covid-19. Even if that person could have eventually died from the pre-existing condition — for example, heart disease — coronavirus will have been what killed them and would be determined as their cause of death.
“The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s death. In 92% of all deaths that mention Covid-19, Covid-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death,” Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last month in a statement provided to CNN.
It’s not the first time that Trump has baselessly questioned the accuracy of the US Covid-19 death count.
“We report them and you know — doctors get more money, and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive,” Trump said last Saturday. “This country and their reporting systems are really not doing it right.”