The Biden administration moved to recalculate the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US to get a clearer picture on whether Covid-19 is causing severe disease, according to two senior officials familiar with the matter, Politico reported.
According to the report, Biden officials were reviewing the hospitalization data across the country to determine the number of people who came in for COVID or with COVID.
“While the guidance and intent of the hospital data collection is to capture people who are admitted for Covid (vs with Covid), in practice the data reported varies by entity,” a senior official at HHS said in a statement.
A task force comprised of scientists and data specialists at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with hospitals nationwide to improve Covid-19 reporting. The group is asking hospitals to report numbers of patients who go to the facility because they have Covid-19 and separate those from individuals who go in for other reasons and test positive after being admitted, the two officials said.
The administration’s goal is to get a more accurate sense of Covid-19’s impact across the country and whether the virus is causing severe disease. Senior Biden health officials have increasingly relied on hospitalization numbers, rather than case counts, to determine how to respond to the virus as well as the efficacy of the vaccines. Lower hospitalization rates could inform the administration’s thinking on public health measures such as masking. More accurate Covid-19 numbers also could provide a better picture of the strain on hospitals and which resources they might need during surges.
Biden officials are conducting a national review of hospitalization data to determine how many individuals sought care for Covid-19 and unrelated reasons during the peak of the Omicron spread.
It can be recalled on April 8, 2020, Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Minn) claimed hospitals get paid more if Medicare patients were listed as COVID-19 patients and three times as much if they need a ventilator.
“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. 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,” Se. Jensen said.
USA TODAY had reached out to Marty Makary, a surgeon and public policy researcher at Johns Hopkins University, regarding the claim. Makary said in an email on April 21 that “what Scott Jensen said sounds right to me.”