BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — President Trump sparked controversy after a campaign rally in Michigan when he claimed doctors are purposely over-counting COVID deaths for financial gain.
“You know our doctors get more money if someone dies from COVID. You know that, right?” President Trump said. “It is like $2,000 more.”
Local doctors say that’s simply not true.
In response, Bakersfield Heart Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brij Bhambi, said: “if I deliberately misdiagnose for financial gain, that’s the definition of fraud. I commit a fraud, I go to jail. My job is not to commit fraud. My job is to call a spade a spade.”
Dr. Bhambi says hospitals are actually losing money during this pandemic. While hospitals may be getting more money to treat a surge of COVID patients, it’s a net loss, not gain.
“There is a slight economic reimbursement for COVID, but the expenses that went into being prepared for the surge is much larger. So in some cases, heart patient hospitals lost a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
There also has been some confusion about what exactly is considered a coronavirus death.
During his Michigan rally, President Trump claimed, “in Germany and other places, if you have a heart attack or if you have cancer, or if you’re terminally ill and you catch COVID, they say you die of cancer; you died of a heart attack. With us, when in doubt, choose COVID.”
But Dr. Bhambi says that’s not true. So how exactly are coronavirus deaths counted?
“In our hospital, it’s not the incidental occurrence of COVID that marks a COVID death. It’s COVID as the primary source,” Dr. Bhambi explained. “So if a person comes with COVID pneumonia and succumbs to it, that’s a COVID death. If a person comes for a heart catheterization and has incidental COVID, that has nothing to do with it, so that won’t go as COVID-induced mortality.”
We reached out to Adventist Health, Dignity Health, and Kern Medical Center today to see if they would confirm or deny President Trump’s claims. None of them commented.
In the meantime, national experts say there is no scientific evidence to back up doctors inflating the covid death count for profit.