Whence the story about MDs inflating Covid death stats?

I vaguely recall, some time ago, an assertion that (some) physicians were assigning cause of death to Covid infection inappropriately, e.g. patient dies in a car accident but tested positive for Covid, so “counts as a Covid death.” At best this seems like maybe someone misunderstood how death certificates are filled out, but I’m wondering if anyone has any insight as to the origin of this story?

It just came to mind recently because someone I know on social media has repeated it, complete with the bonus bit about how hospitals get $5000 (or was it $50,000) for every Covid death. He even ended with “many doctors are saying”, which I thought was a rather interestingly Trumpian tag line.

I believe you just answered your own question. These Covid death stories are just BS thrown around by the conspiracy theory clowns to confuse people. The tag line tells you what camp it started in.

It’s not entirely untrue, depending on the country’s reporting rules. Some places, if a person tests positive for the virus and they die before testing negative, then regardless it’s counted as a Covid death, even if the person was hit by a bus.
That’s said:

  1. Those would be a tiny amount, perhaps a handful out of the millions currently known to have died.
  2. Lots of people have been clinically diagnosed with Covid on the basis of symptoms but never returned a positive test. This I suspect is much more common that the above.
  3. Of course this does depend on the country tracking individual cases and deaths.
  4. All the best lies have some kernel of truth.

I doubt very much that anyone will ever know the origin of that story because it sounds just like the stories that I have heard for decades about CPS workers and parole and probation officers - that they get some sort of bonus every time they put a child in foster care or arrest someone for violating their probation/parole. I’m not saying that those things don’t happen when they shouldn’t or that there is never any corruption - but those things are very different from officially being paid a bounty. Just like I’m sure there are people who have been incorrectly counted as dying of COVID when they actually died with COVID but that doesn’t mean it was intentional or a hte result of a conspiracy.

No it’s not.

The idea originally came from a statement from Dr Birx

If someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”

But, even though she said that, deaths that were clearly caused by something else (such as car crashes) were not listed as covid deaths.

Very early on Fed and State agencies revised their policies to require that Covid play a significant role in the death to be counted as a Covid death.

Did you miss the bit about “some countries”?

I did. I read “counties”. And assumed op was asking about USA. My post applies to USA only.

Colorado had an early problem with the way it reported deaths with COVID vs. deaths from COVID:

In absolute numbers, it amounted to a rounding error, but it was a totally unforced error.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was ignorance in interpreting death certificates.

For example, if it says the cause of death was “Acute Hypoxic Respiratory Failure”, and a contributing condition was “COVID related pneumonia”,

I’d bet that those clowns wouldn’t get that saying that it was hypoxia and therefore not a COVID death in that situation misses the point entirely- it’s like saying someone died because they had blunt force trauma to the head, and not because they were in a car wreck. Technically correct, but missing the point.

Which countries? Please link to proof.

More precisely, the triggering event would have been Covid-19 infection, leading to pneumonia and death from respiratory failure. That’s a Covid-19 death.

Claiming otherwise is much like pointing to a death certificate listing a massive bleed from esophageal varices and saying health authorities falsely labeled it as death secondary to alcoholism. Well, if that person hadn’t had a cirrhotic liver from years of heavy drinking, he wouldn’t have developed the varices that killed him.

The idea that hospitals are cleaning up financially by exaggerating Covid-19 deaths (or cases) is also hooey.

"Robert Berenson, an institute fellow at the Urban Institute, said the notion that hospitals are profiting off the pandemic — as some of the social media posts may imply — isn’t borne out by facts, either.

"Berenson said revenues appear to be down for hospitals this quarter because many have suspended elective procedures, which are key to their revenue, forcing some hospitals to cut staff. He surmised that potential instances of patients being wrongly “upcoded” — or classified as COVID-19 when they’re not — are “trivial compared to these other forces that are affecting hospital finances.”

“Berenson and others we spoke with also said that hospitals have profound disincentives for “upcoding,” which can result in criminal or civil liabilities, such as being susceptible to being kicked out of the Medicare program.”

In general, exaggerating the number of deaths from any cause at a hospital is a good way to bring Joint Commission investigators to your door, not reel in big payments.

Thanks so much for the perspectives; I really appreciate all the sources. Pretty sure there haven’t been any reporting shenanigans at our hospital. Just watching the census numbers…

In my state, deaths were initially counted as covid if covid was present, as there wasn’t time to investigate every death fully and still report daily. Then, as they got more manpower (even brought in the national guard for help) and had the time to sort things out, the deaths were reclassified accordingly. They were very upfront about it and reported all the reclassifications as they occurred. Nothing covert was taking place.

I asked a conservative I know if he really believed that doctors all over the country were inflating covid numbers and he said, no not doctors. It’s the Hospital Administrators. :woman_shrugging:

I’m not sure where his belief comes from.

This quote:

out of context makes it sound like hospitals could actually get paid more if they list COVID on a death certificate. But I have yet to see a cite that this is ever the case.

My mother apparently believes this because, “we’ve heard it over and over again from multiple sources”.

I sent her a Fox News fact check on it saying it wasn’t true, but “that’s just one source” and “everybody is saying it”.

Yeah, they’re slippery.

Cite? I’ve seen this claimed over and over (and over) but not once by anyone who could provide a shred of proof. Which countries are doing it?

This is unlikely, Covid would be listed as an incidental. In fact, The Economist believes 12-16 million people have died of Covid, fat higher than listed numbers, since testing is not always done in some countries, after looking at actual and expected mortality rates.

Yes, this is pretty straightforward. COVID or not, there were a HELL of a lot of “excess” deaths in 2020 in the US. Something was killing hundreds of thousands more people than were expected to die in a typical year, and it wasn’t car accidents.

Everything I’ve read says that there about 70-170k excess deaths not attributed to COVID in the last year. Which is still high, but I’m thinking those are probably people who didn’t get timely medical care due to fear, lockdowns, etc… not direct COVID infection deaths that weren’t classified as such.

Not that they’re not COVID deaths in a broader sense; someone who dies of cancer because they skipped their screening due to fear, and then didn’t get subsequent treatment is still a COVID death in an overall sense, even if they were never infected.

I think a lot of the uncertainty is in how/what data is collected, and how it’s sliced and diced prior to presentation. We may never know for sure how many people like the above there were, outside of statistical analyses done years from now.