On Aug. 5, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer sent letters to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Brett Giroir, who have both agreed in the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis that hospitals could be reporting unrelated fatalities as COVID-19 deaths to receive more funding.

“As you know, hospitals receive a greater reimbursement from Medicare for any patient on a ventilator and receiving intensive services. However, this reimbursement doesn’t change whether the care is for pneumonia or COVID-19,” Luetkemeyer said. “Under the CARES Act, an additional 20% was added to the reimbursement amount for all COVID-19 related services. 

“I am concerned that this has provided a perverse incentive for hospitals to code a patient’s death being due to COVID-19, even if it was not the ultimate cause.”

On July 2, in the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Admiral Giroir confirmed that there were “misincentives” for hospitals to over-code COVID-19 deaths. On July 31, in the Select Committee on the novel coronavirus crisis, Dr. Redfield suggested that similar to the HIV epidemic decades before, hospitals prefer the COVID-19 death classification for greater reimbursement.

Copies of the letters can be found on lincolnnewsnow.com.