Commentary / Coronavirus / Opinion / Politics

Americans Resist Fear Mongering and Understand Life’s Risks

americansWritten by: David Levien, M.D., MBA, FACS

We Americans are smart people; we are practical and down to earth. We have a pretty good idea of the risks we take but it’s sometimes hard to resist fear engendered for political gain. Our brave warfighters know that they take a risk when they enter a battle zone. They do it anyway because they are loyal to our great country. The chattering class incessantly repeats the phrase “it’s the economy stupid” and, of course, if it were just about the economy President Trump would win in landslide. It turns out that there are many additional reasons why America needs President Trump to prevail.

Many people take on risk because of a sense of patriotism and not because it’s in their economic best interests. Our brave soldiers and law enforcement are such people, taking on a dangerous job for a sense of purpose. It’s risky riding a motorcycle but some of us do it for the feeling of freedom it imparts. We know we take on a risk when we maintain a sedentary lifestyle and under- and over-nutrition and lack of exercise are major risk factors. It is wrong to shame people for the lifestyle they choose.

With regard to public policy, we need to be very careful what we incentivize. Hospital administrators might be motivated to label cases coronavirus by huge sums of money paid by the government to do so, even without verification. Also, administrators are freed from costly privacy and quality and safety mandates by the 1135 waiver, which is a disclaimer that allows modification of certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health insurance Program (CHIP) requirements, but only if they have a given number of COVID-19 cases. This could provide a perverse incentive to overreport coronavirus cases. Are hospital administrators exploiting the President’s generosity by inflating their numbers?

It is intriguing when the overall death rate in an area stays constant but the number of deaths from heart disease goes down commensurate with the rise of so-called COVID-19 cases. There is a continuum between conspiracy theorists and failing to connect the dots. The massacre at the Boston marathon was enabled by a profound failure to connect the dots and listen to the intelligence. One of the many things honest Americans want is a simple actuary to look at the data and for the office of Inspector General to claw back money from hospitals that have inflated their COVID-19 numbers.

 

Dr. Levien is President and CEO of The American College of Healthcare Trustees. He was a Chairman of Surgery for 20 years and was Board Certified in General Surgery, Colorectal Surgery, and held the Certificate of Added Qualification in Surgical Critical Care. He practiced surgery and critical care for 33 years and was in the first group to become a Fellow of The College of Critical Care Medicine.

 

 

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G Schalk
1 year ago

Please start by asking the right questions. First, how many people died between 1/1/19 and 9/30/19 in TOTAL? Second, how many people died between 1/1/20 and 9/30/20 in TOTAL?

Kim
1 year ago

That’s a fascinating twist: “It is intriguing when the overall death rate in an area stays constant but the number of deaths from heart disease goes down commensurate with the rise of so-called COVID-19 cases.” We’ve heard that people with heart disease who also catch the virus will have “COVID-19” listed as cause of death. Some talk radio programs have stated that only 15,000 people in this country have died from the virus.

If the federal government is handing out more money to hospitals for greater numbers of pandemic deaths, hmmm…. what’s fair here? Do other countries face the same dilemma?

PaulE
1 year ago
Reply to  Kim

Well considering the federal government pays the hospitals $20,000 for each case of Covid-19 reported, the financial incentive to the hospitals to label as many patients as Covid-19 is immense. People dying from a motorcycle accident being label Covid-19 deaths. People dying with cancer, even though their terminal diagnosis was well before Covid-19 arrived, being labeled Covid-19 deaths. Think about if a hospital can label 1,000 patients over the last 6 months, which isn’t unrealistic given normal patient loads in most metropolitan areas. That’s an extra $20,000,000 for a hospital’s bottom line just for checking the right box.

Oh and yes, most of the other countries around the world also pay a premium for reporting instances of Covid-19. So do you think their hospital administrators are that much different from ours. It’s viewed as “free money” for checking the right box. So if the U.S. government is serious about clawing back the money on intentionally misdiagnosed Covid-19 patients from hospitals, we might someday learn that the actual numbers and real death rate from this virus was substantially less than what has been reported. Of course it will be printed in very small print, if it is reported at all, in a small story buried in the back pages of newspapers. The so-called TV news will NEVER report any revision downward in the numbers.

DAVID LEVIEN, MD,MBA,FACS
1 year ago
Reply to  PaulE

PaulE is correct. If the office of inspector general of CMS investigates a few of these administrators for fraud and abuse, it might prevent future abuses, save the taxpayer money, and prevent Democrats from spreading irrational fear, injuring America.

Kim
1 year ago
Reply to  PaulE

I’m speechless, and had no idea of the extent and the deviousness of this issue. Thanks, PaulE; more in reply to Dr. Levien.

DAVID LEVIEN, MD,MBA,FACS
1 year ago
Reply to  Kim

Kim is very insightful. If the office of inspector general of CMS investigates a few of these administrators for fraud and abuse, it might prevent future abuses, save the taxpayer money, and prevent Democrats from spreading irrational fear, injuring America. A good person to examine this would be an actuary, an honest one. Also, actuaries often work for insurance companies and would be well-suited to put risk on perspective. What is the risk of dying from heart disease? Cancer? Road traffic accident? Suicide? Gang violence? Living next to a nuclear reactor? Living in a poor neighborhood
with no safe place to walk or no stores with fresh produce or too many dust mites causing asthma? President Trump is reversing inner city poverty while Democrats for decades gave it only lip service.

Kim
1 year ago

To PaulE and Dr. Levien–

Wow. So this whole economic disaster was unwarranted. My head is going in all different directions, considering the ramifications of this fraudulent fear inflicted on the American people. Thanks for your insight.

I was hospitalized a few months ago (not for the virus), and the facility was sending all “COVID-19 patients” to a nearby hospital in a different system. You have to wonder what sort of “agreement” the two systems might have negotiated.

Normally, I’m pretty skeptical. Perhaps losing a relative (older, with health issues) and some acquaintances colored my perspective. Sure, we’ve heard of patients dying from complications of cancer, heat disease, or diabetes. But if they had a cough or a fever, the death certificate listed COVID-19 as the cause. This is a fraud.

Are there agencies monitoring the data and uncovering what might be the most expensive disaster in American history? Will the CMS do it, or should it come from a private concern? Imagine what the results of the election might be if the information made its way to the masses. No question, President Trump would win in a landslide.

Kim
1 year ago
Reply to  Kim

uh…that’s “heart” disease

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