Doctors groups rip Trump for touting baseless conspiracy over COVID-19 death count – USA TODAY

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John Fritze
 
| USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON – Medical groups are slamming President Donald Trump for resurfacing a baseless conspiracy on campaign stops that doctors are inflating the number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA in order to drive up profits during the pandemic.

“You know, our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right?” Trump told a rally in Waterford Township, Mich., on Friday, resurfacing a claim he has made for weeks. “I mean, our doctors are very smart people…so, what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry, but, you know, everybody dies of COVID.'”

Trump is running for reelection during a pandemic that has killed nearly 230,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Democratic opponent Joe Biden has made the Trump administration’s handling of the virus a central theme. 

Medical groups, including the American Medical Association, have denounced Trump’s assertion that doctors are inflating the number of deaths. Dr. Susan Bailey, the president of that group, called Trump’s claim “malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided.”

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“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work: Wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” she said in a statement that did not mention Trump by name. 

The American College of Emergency Physicians released a statement earlier this week saying the group was “appalled” by the president’s claim. 

“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,” the group said in an Oct. 25 statement. 

Biden also criticized Trump for the claim. 

“The president of the United States is accusing the medical profession of making up COVID deaths so they make more money,” the Democratic nominee told a drive-in rally in Minnesota on Friday. “Doctors and nurses go to work every day to save lives. They do their jobs. Donald Trump should stop attacking them and do his job.”

Trump has made similar arguments for some time, suggesting that terminally ill patients who contract COVID-19 during the course of their disease are categorized as having died from coronavirus rather than their underlying condition. He appears to be referring to a provision of the bipartisan economic stimulus legislation that included a 20% additional Medicare reimbursement for hospitals treating COVID patients. 

But public health experts and independent fact checkers have noted that the higher reimbursement alone is not evidence of widespread fraud. They have also noted that it’s just as possible there has been an undercount in coronavirus deaths, either because of a lack of testing in the early phases of the pandemic or because the affected patients by secondary conditions caused by the virus. 

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