Brief #82 – Health and Gender
Author Taylor J Smith
After the Trump Administration’s July announcement requiring all hospitals to submit COVID-19 data to private company, TeleTracking Technologies, exclusively sharing data with the Department of Health and Human Services, critics opposed the White House’s move to bypass the Centers for Disease Control, raising transparency concerns. However, the requirements have continued, and President Trump has become dissatisfied with the level of compliance amongst the nation’s hospitals. Such dissatisfaction has prompted an emergency rule threatening Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospitals’ non-compliance. Hospitals that fail to comply with federal requirements on COVID-19 and influenza data are at risk for losing U.S. funding. Hospitals will be given 14 weeks, from the late August announcement, to make adjustments and comply before enforcements take effect. Nursing homes and labs are also included under this rule and therefore subject to fines and punishments.
The information the White House wants completed is a general report on hospitals’ COVID-19 and influenza data. Among the data requested is the number of Covid-19 patients in each hospital and availability of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective gowns for employees. One of the most difficult requirements for hospitals, especially small ones, is that they are required to submit reported data every day, even on weekends. Should a hospital worker responsible for completing the form be sick or out of the hospital, partially fill out the form, or simply forget to complete the form, the hospital falls into noncompliance.
Previous to this crackdown, hospitals were participating in the voluntary reporting system, however, full compliance has been low, only 24% of hospitals reported all required elements every day. As mentioned, the Administration was not satisfied with the 86% reporting rate, by implementing this rule, Trump leaves hospitals no choice but to reach a 100% reporting rate.
Supporters of this rule emphasize how critical the data is in understanding the severity of the coronavirus and how central the data is for the national response to the pandemic. Seema Verma, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, said the changes “represent a dramatic acceleration of our efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19”.
However, withholding of Medicare and Medicaid funding would be a major blow to almost any hospital and would be too hard on the communities they serve, many experts say. For many hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid account for 40-60% of total funding and revenue. The American Hospital Association immediately denounced the rule, highlighting the risk of hospitals going out of business, and noting the penalty would be “too severe a penalty on a community”, a community that should not suffer because of subjective rules.
This rule is detrimental to the very institution serving as the American people’s first line of defense against the coronavirus. While the pursuit for COVID-19 and influenza data is just, the penalty is excessive and unnecessary. Such penalties jeopardize patient access to hospital care during a pandemic, likely resulting in widespread complications, suffering and/or deaths, which can only be exacerbated by the current pandemic.
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