Are hospitals compensated 15% more for COVID-19 patients under the stimulus package -- and, with that financial incentive, are New York City hospitals inflating their coronavirus numbers? No, this is misleading: According to the bill passed by Congress, some hospitals are receiving more money for COVID-19 patients. But there is no evidence that NYC hospitals have inflated their numbers of coronavirus patients or deaths to get more funds.
The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published by Sheri Sunshine on Facebook on April 16, 2020, under the title "#Incentives #FollowtheMoney." It opened:
Every time a hospital admits, discharges, or loses a patient to Covid-19, they are compensated 15% more according to the CARES ACT, SEC 4409.
NYC was facing a hospital budget crisis and you fixed it for them. They are inflating all of their #coronavirus numbers.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
The post claims that within the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, hospitals are receiving a huge increase in the money they're given per COVID-19 patients. In response, according to the post, hospitals are reporting larger numbers of coronavirus patients to further boost their funding.
This is misleading. There is language in the bill that says hospitals will be compensated 15% more for COVID-19 patients, but there is no evidence to prove that NYC hospitals are inflating their numbers.
The Facebook post echoes a tweet by Candace Owens on April 14, which traveled quickly, getting more than 14,000 likes and 6,500 shares:
Every time a hospital admits, discharges, or loses a patient to Covid-19, they are compensated 15% more according to the CARES ACT, SEC 4409.-- Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) April 14, 2020
NYC was facing a hospital budget crisis and you fixed it for them. They are inflating all of their #coronavirus numbers. https://t.co/sH1N18lpfB
The posts are correct on the payments to hospitals, according to pages 188-189 of the bill. Here is the language:
Sec. 4409. Medicare hospital inpatient prospective payment system add-on payment for covid-19 patients during emergency period.
SEC. 4409. MEDICARE HOSPITAL INPATIENT PROSPECTIVE PAYMENT SYSTEM ADD-ON PAYMENT FOR COVID-19 PATIENTS DURING EMERGENCY PERIOD. (a) IN GENERAL.--Section 1886(d)(4)(C) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395ww(d)(4)(C)) is amended by adding at the end the following new clause: ''(iv)(I) For discharges occurring during the emergency period described in section 1135(g)(1)(B), in the case of a discharge that has a principal or secondary diagnosis of COVID-19, the Secretary shall increase the weighting factor for each diagnosis-related group (with such a principal or secondary diagnosis) by 15 percent. ''(II) Any adjustment under subclause (I) shall not be taken into account in applying budget neutrality under clause (iii).''. 23 (b) IMPLEMENTATION.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary may implement the amendment made by subsection (a) by program instruction or otherwise."
Still, there is no evidence that NYC hospitals, or any hospitals, are inflating coronavirus numbers.
Consider the quick rise in cases in NYC: The New York Times reported April 10 that:
Officials had estimated that 140,000 hospital beds might be needed to treat coronavirus patients. Only about 18,500 were in use by week's end.".
However, a week later, deaths and new coronavirus cases there have continued to rise, and dramatically. The city's heath department reported 12,199 people have died from coronavirus as of April 17, and the number of confirmed cases there was 122,148.
According to CBS News report, President Trump on April 15 also accused New York of inflating coronavirus numbers. But he, too, offered no evidence. The report read, in part:
President Trump suggested Wednesday that New York City is artificially inflating its coronavirus death toll, after a revised count added more than 3,700 fatalities to the city's tally. His accusation drew disgust from the mayor's office -- which reminded the president that he's talking about human beings with grieving families -- and bewilderment from New York's governor.
"I see this morning where New York added 3,000 deaths because they died," Mr. Trump said during his White House press conference, rounding down the number of new deaths. "Rather than heart attack, they say heart attack caused by this."
"If you look at it, that is it," he added. "Everything we have is documented and reported great. What they are doing is just in case -- that is OK. We have more cases because we do more reporting."
CBS News noted NYC reported the deaths of 3,778 people "who were never tested or hospitalized for the virus, but whose death appeared to be due to COVID-19 symptoms. The death certificates for these victims list the cause of death as "COVID-19 or an equivalent."