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WASHINGTON – Medical groups slammed President Donald Trump for resurfacing a conspiracy theory on campaign stops that doctors inflate the number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA 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, Michigan, on Friday, a claim he has repeated 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.’”
The pandemic has killed more than 230,000 people in the USA, according to Johns Hopkins University. Trump's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, has made the Trump administration's handling of the virus a central theme of his presidential campaign.
Medical groups, including the American Medical Association, denounced Trump's assertion that doctors inflate the number of deaths. AMA President Susan Bailey 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 that it 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 Oct. 25.
“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," Biden told a drive-in rally in Minnesota on Friday.
Trump has suggested 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. A provision of bipartisan economic relief legislation included a 20% additional Medicare reimbursement for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
Higher reimbursement alone is not evidence of fraud. It's possible there has been an undercount in coronavirus deaths because of a lack of testing in the early phases of the pandemic.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump ripped for 'baseless' claim doctors inflate COVID-19 deaths