In the second half of an interview this month on Del Bigtree’s “The Highwire” — “COVID-19: Following the Money” — policy analyst A.J. DePriest reported on the impact of billions in COVID stimulus funds, which, according to some doctors and lawyers, turned hospitals and medical staff into “bounty hunters,” and COVID patients into “virtual prisoners.”
As reported last week by The Defender, federal monies from the 2020 and 2021 COVID stimulus bills dramatically reshaped K-12 educational priorities, turning American school officials into lackeys for federal agencies more intent on masking and vaccinating every last child than on supporting meaningful education.
So, too, with the stimulus-induced reshaping of hospital priorities.
In the second half of a January interview on Del Bigtree’s “The Highwire” — “COVID-19: Following the Money” — policy analyst A.J. DePriest reported on the untoward consequences set into motion as a result of COVID funds provided to hospitals.
Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal government allocated a total of $186.5 billion to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), with two-thirds ($121.3 billion) disbursed as of January 2022.
Almost immediately, alert doctors and astute journalists warned the Medicare add-on payments built into the relief package created perverse incentives unfriendly to patients’ interests.
As summarized by Dr. Scott Jensen — former Minnesota state senator and current gubernatorial candidate — “anytime healthcare intersects with dollars it gets awkward.”
Nearly two years down the road, the “awkwardness” is increasingly difficult to hide.
In the view of DePriest and many others, HHS’s stimulus slush fund has been every bit as dangerous for hospital patients as the U.S. Department of Education’s handouts have been for the nation’s schoolchildren.
Making out like bandits
Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet and Ali Shultz, J.D., who wrote a widely distributed op-ed in late 2021 for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), summed up the disturbing situation prevailing in hospitals. The AAPS’s professional calling card is its “dedication to the highest ethical standards of the Oath of Hippocrates.”
Not mincing their words, the two argued that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) payment directives turned hospitals and medical staff into “bounty hunters,” and COVID patients into “virtual prisoners.”
Highlighting the slew of CMS add-ons and other incentives established with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — and also the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPPHCEA) — they emphasized the payments hinge on hospitals’ willingness to slavishly follow the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) guidelines “for all things related to COVID-19.”
As itemized by Vliet and Shultz, compliant hospitals garner CMS payments for:
- Each completed diagnostic test (required in the emergency room or upon admission).
- Each COVID-19 diagnosis.
- Each COVID admission.
- Use of the intravenously administered Gilead drug remdesivir (brand name Veklury), which yields a 20% bonus payment on the entire hospital bill.
- Mechanical ventilation.
- COVID-19 listed as cause of death.
Citing a Becker’s Hospital Review breakdown, published in April 2020, of CARES Act payments to different states, DePriest told Bigtree payments ranged from $166,000 per COVID patient in Tennessee hospitals, for example, to far higher payments in states such as North Dakota ($339,000), Nebraska ($379,000) and West Virginia ($471,000).
In addition, for hospitals ascertained to be in COVID “hotspots,” HHS distributed special “high-impact” funds — $77,000 per admission initially, later downsized to $50,000 per admission.
The remdesivir ruse
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spent $79 million developing remdesivir for Gilead, which itself dished out $2.45 million during the first quarter of 2020, to lobby for the drug’s use with COVID patients.
On May 1, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized remdesivir for emergency use in individuals hospitalized with severe COVID illness, and members of an NIH expert panel (many with financial ties to Gilead) added the drug to the agency’s treatment guidelines.
A scant five months later, FDA granted full approval to remdesivir for hospitalized COVID patients over age 12.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in contrast, advised against remdesivir, stating the drug has “no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients.”
Remdesivir sailed through regulatory hoops in the U.S. despite an abysmal track record of “adverse effects serious enough to kill” any individual hapless enough to take it.
Children’s Health Defense Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. discusses remdesivir’s toxicity in his best-selling book, The Real Anthony Fauci, outlining the lethal problems — multiple organ failure, acute kidney failure, septic shock, hypotension and death — experienced by participants in NIAID’s clinical trial of remdesivir as an Ebola therapy.
When the trial, which compared remdesivir against three other drugs, killed more than half (54%) of the remdesivir recipients within 28 days — the highest mortality rate among the four groups — an oversight board forced the NIAID to end the prong of the study focused on remdesivir.
As if remdesivir alone weren’t bad enough, Vliet and Shultz estimate mechanical ventilation kills anywhere from 45% to 85% of COVID patients. Moreover, NIH’s skimpy treatment guidelines prescribe dexamethasone concurrently with ventilators.