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VERIFY: Do hospitals get more funding by marking deaths COVID-19 related?

Viewers have reached out to ABC10 asking if hospitals are inflating the coronavirus death numbers to receive more funding.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — It's a claim passed on through word of mouth and social media that prompted ABC10 viewers to reach out.

One viewer reached out to ABC10 and asked: 

"People are saying that the report of deaths due to COVID-19 is [sic] false. People are saying that hospitals are getting funded if they say a death is virus related. Any truth to this?"

Well, this has to be broken down in two parts.


Do hospitals receive more funds if they say a death is related to COVID-19? And does this mean the number of coronavirus death are false or inflated?


ABC10 can verify that hospitals do get reimbursed for coronavirus related care, which unfortunately includes deaths.

As for the the second part of our viewer's question, a medicare spokesperson said it is unlikely. 

"Claims with inaccurate diagnosis or DRG would be subject to recoupment and/or other potential civil or criminal charges for false claims."

So far, it is unverified that hospitals are falsifying records for financial gain.


According to the US Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] which oversees the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, under the federal coronavirus aid relief bill known as the CARES Act, hospitals get an extra 20% in Medicare reimbursements on top of traditional rates due to the public health emergency.

That's for COVID-19 related admissions, which can include deaths. The pay-out amount varies, according to a medicare spokesperson who said "medicare adjusts hospital payment based on geographic variation in local costs."

Also, earlier this month, HHS announced a second round of federal relief for hospitals in high impact areas, totaling $10 billion. 

Of that second-round money, HHS reported 63 California hospitals received $50,000 for each eligible coronavirus patient they admitted between Jan. 1 and June 10, 2020. That's a combined total of more than $607 million.


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