The Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian think tank, is giving Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi a platform to spread more bogus right-wing talking points about Covid-19. They had been widely condemned by the medical community after claiming:
...that public health orders to combat the spread of COVID-19 are harmful, and that the disease is much less deadly than public health authorities claim.
Fox News has taken to it like catnip: The pair were interviewed by Laura Ingraham in her prime time slot Monday and featured in Tucker Carlson’s monologues two days in a row. Erickson spoke to Shannon Bream in her 11 p.m. slot Tuesday night, and the doctors’ viral local news briefing — which was taken down by YouTube this week after being promoted by Elon Musk and others — was the focus of a “Fox & Friends” segment Wednesday morning.
...The American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine on Monday said in a statement that they “emphatically condemn” Erickson and Massihi’s pronouncements, and that the doctors’ “reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19.”
“ACEP and AAEM strongly advise against using any statements of Drs. Erickson and Massihi as a basis for policy and decision making,” the groups said.
The claim they’re making, according to FEE? Doctors are being pressured to list Covid-19 as the cause of death even in cases it has nothing with which to do.
During their long discussion with reporters, Dr. Erickson noted he has spoken to numerous physicians who say they are being pressured to add COVID-19 to death certificates and diagnostic lists—even when the novel coronavirus appears to have no relation to the victim’s cause of death.
“They say, ‘You know, it’s interesting. When I’m writing up my death report I’m being pressured to add Covid,’” Erickson said. “Why is that? Why are we being pressured to add Covid? To maybe increase the numbers, and make it look a little bit worse than it is?”
But wait, there’s more.
As Minnesota lawmaker and longtime family practitioner Dr. Scott Jensen recently observed, hospitals are incentivized to pressure physicians to include COVID-19 on death certificates and discharge papers, since the CARES Act increases Medicare payments to hospitals treating COVID-19 victims.
"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,” said Jensen, whose claim was fact-checked by USA Today. “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."
This is despicable in so many ways.
- It says doctors are being pressured to lie about Covid-19 deaths, which makes the situation look worse than it is — which is being used to justify unreasonable government shut-down orders.
- The alleged reason for lying is money — Government incentivizes this through higher Medicare payments for Covid-19.
But this goes deeper.
The idea that the death numbers are fake reinforces right wing memes that:
- We can send people back to work NOW because it’s not as bad as we’ve been told.
- We can’t trust the medical establishment.
- We can’t trust what we hear in the media.
- The CARES Act is a boondoggle.
- Government healthcare like Medicare wastes money, leads to bad medicine, and is a bad idea.
- It ties in with the narrative that the government is paying people so much money, they are refusing to work.
- Government should not be messing with business.
- Trump and his administration are doing a great job and not getting credit for it.
- Everything is fine.
Watch for these talking points to pop up — that doctors are lying about the virus because it’s making them money, etc. (Projection, much?)
How about a couple of reality checks? Death counts are being inflated? Try again. From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
...As we discussed back in March, the basic formula is the same everywhere: collect data on average mortality in recent years, compare it to the total number of deaths over the same calendar dates this year and then subtract the official COVID19 death toll numbers from that “excess” amount. You are left with an approximate number which captures the true mortality levels, the true number of people who died, because of the COVID19 Crisis and the difference between the ‘true’ number and the official numbers we’ve grappled with in recent weeks.
...Once you ascertain the total excess mortality for a given time and place the official COVID19 death tolls often only account for only roughly half the total. To look at it a different way, the true death toll (either caused by COVID19 disease or the broader crisis) was about double the number of those who died from COVID19 after a lab confirmed test. The percentage isn’t consistent. But across so many countries, reporting systems, different levels of hospital capacity and health care systems, the consistency of this rough pattern is nonetheless striking.
To put it another way, how about the incentive to skew virus numbers in order to avoid uncomfortable questions? Hello Florida Man Governor Ron DiSantis — come on down!
...In recent weeks, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has refused to name the nursing homes experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, even as the number of cases in long-term care facilities has passed 1,300. The Department of Corrections had until Wednesday declined to acknowledge two inmate COVID-19 deaths at a privately run prison. And the Department of Health has been unwilling to disclose the extent of an undefined backlog of unresolved coronavirus tests at private labs.
...But since the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case, officials have kept some basic information confidential. Most notable: DeSantis has chosen not to reveal the names of nursing homes experiencing outbreaks — cases that, according to Florida Department of Health data, have resulted in at least 126 deaths.
“It’s starting to become pretty well documented that we have a transparency problem with our nursing home industry,” said incoming Florida Senate Democratic leader Gary Farmer.
And that includes selectively reporting death numbers.
The Florida Department of Health asked the Florida Medical Examiners Commission not to release the commission's comprehensive list of coronavirus deaths, the commission's chairman told CNN on Thursday.
Dr. Stephen Nelson said that the commission was told by the Florida Department of Health: "Don't send it out."
His comments come after the Tampa Bay Times said that the list from the medical examiners had previously been released in real time, but, after the newspaper reported that the tally was 10% higher than the health department's tally, state officials directed that the list be reviewed and potentially redacted.
Speaking of Florida, and other states, what money they are getting to help with the burden of Covid-19 costs is being handled badly. The CARES Act is not quite the cash cow the way FEE would have us believe. Per Kaiser Health News…
...Migoya and executives at other beleaguered systems are blasting the government’s decision to take a one-size-fits-all approach to distributing the first $30 billion in emergency grants. HHS confirmed Friday it would give hospitals and doctors money according to their historical share of revenue from the Medicare program for seniors — not according to their coronavirus burden.
...States such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana, which the pandemic has touched relatively lightly, are getting more than $300,000 per reported COVID-19 case in the $30 billion, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.
On the other hand, New York, the worst-hit state, would receive only $12,000 per case. Florida is getting $132,000 per case. KHN relied on a state breakdown provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by HHS along with COVID-19 cases tabulated by The New York Times.
What should have been a matter of public health has snowballed into a collision with political interests and business — and we know how that stacks up with Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians...
A reminder: the connections between reality, truth, and the Right Wing have been broken for years. Regarding the stable genius on his last tremendous solution for the virus, I leave you with this musical commentary.