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With Coronavirus cases rampaging across the United States, one popular conspiracy that has received a lot of attention during the pandemic is the idea that hospitals are diagnosing patients with COVID-19 even if they test negative for the virus in order to receive extra government funding. Believers in this theory also believe that because hospitals are mislabelling patients with the coronavirus, the United States actually has significantly less COVID cases than is reported, but the question remains: Is there any truth to this theory?
When discussing if hospitals are intentionally making false diagnoses to receive financial gain, it is important to clarify just how severe of an accusation this is. If this were to be true, hospitals would be directly violating the Hippocratic Oath, the code of ethics all medical professionals follow.
It is true that the government is providing financial coverage for hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients by covering an additional 20% of typical Medicare rates and reimbursing hospitals that treat COVID patients who are uninsured. Just because there is a slight financial benefit to diagnosing patients with COVID-19, there is no evidence to support that any widespread false diagnoses are occurring.
Even if there is some mislabelling taking place in hospitals, the reasoning would not be for the hospital to profit. Hospital revenue has actually decreased across the nation during the pandemic, meaning that the hospitals are not making a profit off of this health crisis. There are also strict regulations regarding “upcoding”, or intentionally misdiagnosing patients, that could have severe consequences for hospitals if they were to be caught.
While it is possible that some doctors and hospitals may be misdiagnosing patients with COVID-19, there is no evidence of a widespread national conspiracy to profit off of the pandemic by mislabelling patients, nor is there any evidence that misdiagnosing is causing any significant inflation of national COVID statistics.