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CARES Act Pays Hospitals To Report COVID Patients, Even Those Presumed

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Last week, Dr. Deborah Birx, a medical expert on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, made a statement that for many questioning the current coronavirus numbers raised eyebrows. “If someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death,” said Birx, who added that it was based on if a person carried the virus, rather than if they died due to the virus or other extenuating circumstances.

“In this country, we’ve taken a very liberal approach to mortality and I think the reporting here has been pretty straightforward over the past five to six weeks,” she said.

“Prior to that, when there wasn’t testing in January, February that’s a very different situation. There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem – some countries are recording that as a heart issue, kidney issue and not a COVID19 death. Right now, we’re still recording it and the great thing about having forms that come in and a form that has the ability to market as COVID19 infection, the intent is right now if someone dies with COVID19, then we are counting that as a COVID19 death,” she added.

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Upon SaraACarter.com’s review of the CARES Act, Dr. Birx left out a significant detail in the numbers and a key incentive driving the reporting.

Under the legislation, hospitals can receive 15 percent additional funding from Medicare if they report patients who aren’t initially admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 but then while admitted either test positive initially or as ‘secondary diagnosis.’

The bill states: “For discharges occurring during the emergency period described in section 1135(g)(1)(B), in the case of a discharge that has a principal or secondary diagnosis of COVID–19, the Secretary shall increase the weighting factor for each diagnosis-related group (with such a principal or secondary diagnosis) by 15 percent.”

There is also a reported skew in COVID-19 fatality reports and the new information provides a foundation for that.

In fact, this week the CDC changed the rules for reporting cases saying that a patient who doesn’t take a test for the virus, but is presumed to have it will be counted. The CDC also recommends that COVID-19 deaths be reported based on the information provided by hospitals.

“When reporting cause of death on a death certificate, use any information available, such as medical history, medical records, laboratory tests, an autopsy report, or other sources of relevant information. Similar to many other diagnoses, a cause-of-death statement is an informed medical opinion that should be based on sound medical judgment drawn from clinical training and experience, as well as knowledge of current disease states and local trends,” the CDC advises.

New York City officials said Tuesday that the city would begin counting presumed COVID-19 deaths for patients who never underwent testing for the virus.

After the announcement was made, the city’s death toll jumped by 3,700 fatalities. The current nationwide case count is 635,825 and the number of deaths is 30,998.

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Economy

Biden Administration Expands Obamacare Coverage for ‘Dreamers’

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Friday morning the Biden administration announced it is expanding health-care access for “Dreamers”, a select group of illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Illegal immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be granted access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to the White House. Beginning in November, DACA members will be able to apply for healthcare coverage on healthcare.gov and state level insurance marketplaces.

“I’m proud of the contributions of Dreamers to our country and committed to providing Dreamers the support they need to succeed,” President Joe Biden said in a prepared statement. “And that’s why today we are taking this historic step to ensure that DACA recipients have the same access to health care through the Affordable Care Act as their neighbors.”

National Review notes Biden was vice president when then-president Barack Obama created DACA through executive order over a decade ago. The program gives deportation protections and work visas to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. An estimated 580,000 people are enrolled in the program. Former president Donald Trump failed to put an end to DACA during his term and the program continues to be fought in court.

Over 100,000 DACA beneficiaries will purchase health insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace and Basic Health Program created by the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates. Access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will not be incorporated into the White House’s new rule after Biden proposed doing so last year, according to National Review.

“Now as Vice President, I have worked alongside President Biden to take steps to preserve and fortify DACA. Today, we are building on this progress by ensuring DACA recipients also have access to affordable health care, which will improve the health of all communities,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a prepared statement. “This announcement will bring relief to more than 100,000 people and help them thrive while working to achieve their aspirations.”

The White House did not share a cost estimate for the expansion of Obamacare to DACA recipients. They will be eligible for financial assistance to help them afford the health insurance DACA enrollees are now eligible to purchase.

Biden called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and to give Dreamers permanent citizenship. It’s unlikely that Congress will grant Biden’s wishes, given the failure of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration package earlier this year. Conservatives widely rejected the Senate’s proposal for not being tough enough on the southern border at a time when record levels of illegal immigrants are entering the country.

Immigration is a top issue for voters in the 2024 election because of the surge in border crossings under Biden’s watch. Polls indicate that Americans believe that Trump is better suited to handle the crisis at the southern border with his hardline approach.

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