News & Politics

Hospital System Drops Race-Based COVID Treatment Policy After Lawsuit Threats

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

One of the largest hospital systems in the country is dropping its policy that counted race as a more important factor in determining COVID-19 treatment options than diabetes, obesity, asthma, and hypertension combined.

This silliness was allowed at SSM Health, a nominally Catholic health system that operates 23 hospitals across Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. All hospital patients are “scored” as a means of triage in order to give those most in need priority treatment. SSM Health ignored the severity of a patient’s conditions in order to make race a weightier determining factor.

Washington Free Beacon:

SSM Health, a Catholic health system that operates 23 hospitals across Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, began using the scoring system last year to allocate scarce doses of Regeneron, the antibody cocktail that President Donald Trump credited for his recovery from COVID-19. A patient must score at least 20 points to qualify for the drug. The rubric gives three points to patients with diabetes, one for obesity, one for asthma, and one for hypertension, for a total of six points. Identifying as “Non-White or Hispanic” race, on the other hand, nets a patient seven points, regardless of age or underlying conditions.

As an ignorant layman, I would ask why in God’s name this isn’t considered radically unethical. But apparently, unequal outcomes between races trumps ethics and common sense when treating illness.

Related: How Bad Is the Data on COVID? New Numbers From New York Provide Insight

SSM Health gave a statement to the Free Beacon that denied using the race-based scoring system (they stopped using it last year). But they defended the practice anyway, stating that “early versions of risk calculators across the nation appropriately included race and gender criteria based on initial outcomes.”

The way the scoring system was used in practice was astonishingly stupid.

According to an internal memo obtained by the Free Beacon, the SSM scoring system was “based off the Utah Hospital Association and Utah Health Risk Stratification criteria,” which automatically gave two extra points to minority patients—the same amount as diabetes and obesity. The now-defunct rubric is much more radical, prioritizing healthy minorities over white patients with many of the largest risk factors for COVID-19. A 49-year-old white woman with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and asthma would only get 19 points under the rubric, just shy of the 20 point threshold for antibody therapy. But a 50-year-old black woman with no underlying health conditions would receive 22 points, making her eligible.

Was this really necessary? The radical left talking point is that people of color are dying of COVID-19 more often than white people (“racism,” of course), and unequal outcomes must be addressed in the name of “social justice.”

Phooey.

And while blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are more likely than whites to be hospitalized for COVID, they are less likely to die of it, according to a recent analysis of 4.3 million patients.

Other studies have found that racial disparities in COVID outcomes disappear when researchers control for comorbidities and income.

“Black race was not associated with higher in-hospital mortality than white race,” an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded, “after adjustment for differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics on admission.” A study of Maryland and District of Columbia hospitals likewise found no relationship between race and severe disease “after adjustment for clinical factors.”

Dan Lennington, a lawyer for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, says, “It’s amazing that we even need to say it, but doctors should treat the individual patient, not the skin color.”

Amen to that.