A NEW LOW IN HUMAN DISCOURSE
We have reached a new low in human discourse since the birth of SARS-CoV-2 which has morphed into the COVID-19 infection and occupied center-stage for the last 6 months.
I find problematic the labeling of everything outside the conventional line of reasoning as “rumor,” “fake news,” “debunked by science” or a “conspiracy theory.” Accusations of this nature have been promulgated by government, industries, and media with something to gain (an agenda) by confusing and dividing the public. Unfortunately, the end result of questioning the conventional narrative is censorship and destruction of the 1st Amendment right of free speech which we are experiencing.
Identifying a “rumor”
I would like to explore a situation being considered a “rumor” that was recently brought to my attention by a reader who sent me the following: “There are rumors everywhere and I am trying to gently dispel them when I can………….. One rumor is that if a patient had Covid19 and another illness concurrently, and they died, the death would be attributed to Covid19 because hospitals and physicians get something on the order of $39,000 for every Covid death they record. Do you have visibility into whether hospitals are receiving funds for reporting Covid deaths? Whether physicians receive additional pay for each Covid death they report?”
Negative spin expected when facts are not considered
A rumor is “a tall tale of explanations of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern.” In the social sciences, a rumor involves a form of a statement whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed (Wikipedia). The definition of rumor from the Oxford Languages – the world’s leading dictionary publisher for over 150 years – states that a rumor is a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.
The aforementioned concern of whether or not hospitals receive funds for COVID-19 patients or if deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 without testing for COVID-19 when the patient is hospitalized with other issues is NOT a rumor.
Without knowing the background behind this “rumor,” it is easy to put a NEGATIVE SPIN on the numbers and accuse doctors and hospitals of “gaming the system” for money.
Origin of the so-called “rumor”
The origin of the “rumor” was initiated as an OBSERVATION by Minnesota physician and Senator Dr. Scott Jensen, MD, which morphed into ACCUSATIONS of impropriety.
PolitiFact and Kaiser Family Foundations
Here are the facts from PolitiFact Fact Check updated June 22, 2020 and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Kaiser Family Foundation is a leading source of health information. Kaiser Health News PARTNERS with PolitiFact on health fact-checking as an editorially independent program of the foundation. You will find links to BOTH articles used for collecting information used in this article at the end.
Simple answers to rumors regarding Medicare patients
* Yes, hospitals receive additional funds – an average of $13,000 for Medicare patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Keep in mind that it is standard for Medicare to pay roughly three times more for a patient with a respiratory condition who goes on a ventilator than for one who does not.
* Yes, hospitals receive an average of $39,000 for COVID-19 Medicare patients put on ventilators for a minimum of 96 hours.
* Yes, hospitals receive an ADDITIONAL 20% add-on to the regular DRG payment from the government as part of the stimulus CARES ACT (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). The CARES ACT was signed into law on March 27 for COVID-19 Medicare cases to make up for lost hospital revenue since all elective procedures have been halted to free up medical services for COVID-19 patients.
* Yes, as of April 14, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) allows patients with other conditions – but who are also suspected of having COVID-19 – to be counted as COVID-19-related deaths with no COVID-19 testing required.
Note: The DAY the policy reporting change was announced, New York City’s COVID-19 death tally SOARED by more than 3,700 when it included in its total the deaths of people who were SUSPECTED of having COVID-19 but were NEVER tested.
Note: One would need to COMPARE the figures before and after the reporting change on April 14 to see if the SECOND SPIKE in COVID-19 related cases and deaths could be attributed, at least in part, to the reporting change that allowed more deaths to be attributed to COVID-19.
In Dr. Jensen’s own words:
* In an April 8 interview on Fox News, Senator Dr. Jensen claimed hospitals get paid more if Medicare patients are listed as having COVID-19 and get three times as much money if they need a ventilator.
* Dr. Jensen is quoted from his own Facebook page April 15, in part: “How can anyone NOT believe that increasing the number of COVID-19 deaths may create an AVENUE for states to receive a larger portion of federal dollars. Already some states are complaining that they are not getting enough of the CARES ACT dollars due to having significantly more proportional COVID-19 deaths.”
* Dr. Jensen said, “Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate.
Why? Because if it’s a straightforward, garden variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for – if they’re Medicare – typically, the diagnosis-related group lump-sum payment would be $5,000. But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000.”
Dr. Jensen’s video clarified that he does NOT think physicians are”gaming the system” so much as other “players,” such as hospital administrators, who he said may pressure physicians to cite all diagnoses, including “probable” COVID-19, on discharge papers or death certificates to get the higher Medicare allocation allowed under the Coronaviurus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Headlines are often a bad source of medical information. One has to keep in mind that fear and sensationalism sell. So, if you are looking for the rest of the story, read what Dr. Jensen actually said. If it is a medical study, read the conclusion – NOT just the headline.
I think the American people can handle information if given the chance without the information being massaged to promote or force an agenda without question. Democracy is messy.
I prefer information NOT be sanitized to the extent that choice is removed from the equation and the First Amendment right to free speech destroyed.
American Medicine is a For-Profit System
I am not sure why there is so much fallout from Dr. Jensen’s comments.
* American Medicine is a for-profit system.
* Hospitals are a business. If you were CEO of a hospital whose bottom line had significantly decreased due to loss of revenue from non-COVID related diseases and medical procedures and you had the chance to choose between receiving $5,000 for a garden-variety pneumonia, or receiving $13,000 for a COVID-19 related pneumonia, or $39,000 for a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator, what would be YOUR choice?
I think Dr. Jensen is right – “How can anyone NOT believe that increasing the number of COVID-19 deaths may create an AVENUE for states to receive a larger portion of federal dollars.”
Other problems with American Medicine
* American Medicine is also responsible for the majority of bankruptcies in America due to the high cost of medical services.
* America is the most technologically advanced medical system in the world but the World Health Organization ranks us 37th among nations and other surveys rank us last in health care quality in comparison to other industrialized nations.
* I think it is very accurate to say that Big Pharma runs American medicine, our politicians, and the media.
Dr. Fauci has told Americans there is nothing they can do to enhance their immune systems. At the same time – doctors who have demonstrated they can boost immune competence and save lives, have been silenced.
I think doctors and other front-line health professionals have done an outstanding job considering the constraints of standard-of-care conventional medicine under which they have to practice or lose their medical licenses. Doctors, nurses, and other professionals have paid the ultimate price – losing their lives trying to save ours from COVID-19. It doesn’t get any more dedicated than that.
As of today, August 30 (according to Worldometer/COVID-19 statistics), the worldwide cases of COVID-19 are 25,329,700 cases with 17,645,521 recoveries and 787,693 deaths affecting 213 countries and territories.
As of August 30, the USA has 6,166,888 cases of COVID-19 with 3,419,456 recoveries and 187,178 deaths. We have the highest incidence and mortality rates in the world for COVID-19. Either we are the sickest people on the planet or our health care options are too limited.
Conventional medicine has been trying to eliminate alternative medicine for over 100 years under the guise that only conventional medicine is evidence-based.
A successful conventional medical model is one where patients can be convinced that standard-of-care is the repository of all evidence-based medical wisdom. It isn’t.
References for this article:
* USA TODAY FACT CHECK: Hospitals get paid more if patients listed as COVID-19, on Ventilators (Michelle Rogers, USA World Today Network, Updated April 27, 2020)
* PolitiFact: Do Hospitals get paid ‘More’ to treat COVID-19 patients? (Tom Kertscher, PolitiFact reporter, April 21, 2020).
Disclaimer: Only MD’s by law can make medical claims. Therefore, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this post are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician (preferably a physician practicing functional medicine) or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.