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COVID-19 Myths and Misconceptions

Recently, St. Luke's has seen an increase in rumors and misconceptions around our response to COVID-19, from recommending face coverings to the positive case count and reimbursement. These FAQs are meant to respond to these concerns in the community. We'll post more information regularly as we continue to receive questions about rumors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click each question below for its answer:

I’ve heard that hospitals make more money treating COVID-19 patients, so they label more patients as COVID-positive than they actually treat for COVID-19. Is this true?
This is not true. There is a false rumor circulating that hospitals are misrepresenting COVID patient data to increase federal reimbursements for patient care. It is true that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act increased reimbursements to hospitals for Medicare patients with COVID due to the high cost of COVID patient care. However, it is not true that St. Luke’s and other providers have an incentive to misrepresent a patient’s COVID status. To begin with, a misrepresentation of a patient’s COVID status would be fraudulent, exposing the provider to civil and even criminal liability. St. Luke’s simply would not engage in such fraudulent activities.   
 
Second, the St. Luke’s clinicians who decide whether to diagnose patients with COVID have no economic incentive to do so. The way St. Luke’s compensates physicians for the services they provide is not based on what Medicare or other payers reimburse St. Luke’s for the care. In other words, a diagnosing physician is paid by St. Luke’s the same amount for services provided to a patient with or without a COVID diagnosis.   
 
Third, Medicare’s increased reimbursements typically do not cover the increased costs of providing care to COVID-positive patients. COVID-positive patients often suffer more intense symptoms and potential complications than non-COVID patients. These patients often require a combination of medications and sometimes require a ventilator for many days to support breathing. Even COVID patients whose disease does not become more acute require more expensive care, including increased use of personal protective equipment, seclusion protocols, and heightened disinfection routines. The modest increase in Medicare reimbursement does not come close to covering the cost of care.   
 
Finally, Medicare is the only payer that has increased hospital reimbursement for COVID-positive patients. Therefore, for the vast majority of patients under age 65, there is no increase in funding for hospitalized COVID patients.  
 
I've heard there's no science demonstrating that masks are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Is this true?

No. There are multiple medical and scientific studies that show evidence of the effectiveness of masks and face coverings in slowing virus transmission. For more information, and references to the studies themselves, please review our page on Why Masks Work.

I've heard that the number of positive COVID tests reported by St. Luke's is inflated by the inclusion of positive antibody tests. Is this true?

No. At St. Luke's, we only test for the presence of the COVID-19 virus itself. We do not test for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. 

For more information on testing data at St. Luke's, visit our COVID-19 Data and Reporting page.

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