You are here


CEO DATELINE – Medical groups reject Trump conspiracy theory on COVID death count

Oct. 26, 2020
By Walt Williams

At least two medical associations rebuked President Donald Trump’s false claim over the weekend that doctors and hospitals are paid for every COVID-19 death and therefore incentivized to inflate death counts.

Want more news?

Consider joining CEO Update. Membership gives full access to the latest intelligence on association management, career advancement, compensation trends and networking events, as well as hundreds of listings for senior-level association jobs.

Click here for membership details.

During a campaign stop in Wisconsin on Saturday, Trump repeated a debunked conspiracy theory that U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are inflated because doctors and hospitals report COVID-19 as the cause of death rather than a pre-existing medical condition.  “Doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” if they claim the disease killed patients, he said.

“If somebody has a really bad heart and they’re close to death … and they get COVID, they put it down to COVID,” Trump said. “Other countries put it down to a heart. So … we’re going to start looking at things because, you know, they have things a little bit backwards.”

The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, was quick to counter Trump’s claim in a statement shared on its Twitter account. At a time when doctors and other medical providers are busy fighting a third wave of COVID-19 in the U.S., “there is misinformation about how patients are counted,” the group said.

“Let’s be clear, physicians are not inflating the number of COVID-19 patients,” AMA said. “Research published in JAMA and in CDC reports indicate the U.S. had significantly more deaths in 2020 than in previous years (excess deaths). Physicians and patients are making remarkable sacrifices and we continue to urge all to wear a mask, physical distance and wash your hands to reduce suffering, illness and death.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians said it was “appalled” by the president’s remarks.

“To imply that emergency physicians would inflate the number of deaths from this pandemic to gain financially is offensive, especially as many are actually under unprecedented financial strain as they continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19,” ACEP said. “These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation's efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy.”

In addition to the official statements from the two physician groups, Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, responded to Trump’s remarks on his personal Twitter account, saying it was no time to “criticize caregivers giving their all for their patients & communities.”

“Why would anyone call out the physicians and hospitals that so many rely on to be there at times of need?” he said.