Pallone Directs GAO To Investigate HHS Hospital Data Collection Switch

Inside Health Policy

August 21, 2020 8:00 am

House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), along with two colleagues, asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate why HHS decided to have hospitals stop reporting COVID-19 cases through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s portal.

In a letter on Wednesday (Aug. 19), Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Pallone ask the GAO to determine the timeline, effect on the pandemic response and data quality control measures since hospitals stopped reporting to the CDC.

“Not only have HHS’s actions seemingly sidelined the nation’s top public health officials, but they have also reportedly led to unnecessary confusion, additional burden on critical COVID-19 response professionals, and the loss of timely and reliable data, all in the midst of the pandemic when people’s lives are at stake,” the letter says.

The Democratic lawmakers blame the Trump administration for frequently shifting guidance, hospital capacity reporting requirements and systems for key COVID-19 metrics. They raise concerns that hospitals and some states had little to no advance notice before they had to collect and submit new information through different platforms.

“[S]tates no longer receive CDC analyses of the data, nor have consistent access to data submitted to the federal government, both of which they previously relied on to inform their pandemic response planning,” the letter says. “While HHS has stated CDC will have access to the data that is made available in HHS Protect, in bypassing CDC, the new reporting processes raise transparency concerns around how the data may be reviewed and its vulnerability to manipulation to hide the severity of the pandemic.”

The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee is also concerned there will be serious consequences on data integrity by retiring the data system hospitals had originally used to report COVID-19 information, the Energy & Commerce leaders wrote. — Dorothy Mills-Gregg (