WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump claimed without substantiation that US doctors are lying about the number of Americans who have died from Covid-19, saying they inflate the figure because they are paid more money for deaths attributed to the virus.
There's no evidence for the president's assertion, and physician groups have castigated him for maligning their profession.
"Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right?" Mr Trump told a rally audience in Waterford Township, Michigan, on Friday (Oct 30).
"So what they do is, they say, 'I'm sorry, but, you know, everybody dies of Covid,'" Mr Trump continued. "But in Germany and other places, if you have a heart attack, or you have cancer, you're terminally ill, you catch Covid, they say you died of cancer, you died of heart attack. With us, when in doubt, choose Covid."
He said doctors are paid "like US$2,000 (S$2,700) more" for deaths from the coronavirus.
Mr Trump has made similar claims before, and medical groups have called them false and appalling. The American Medical Association renewed its criticism on Friday after his latest remarks.
"The suggestion that doctors - in the midst of a public health crisis - are over-counting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge," AMA President Susan Bailey said in a statement.
"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 practising physical distancing," Dr Bailey added.
In Waterford Township, Mr Trump mocked Fox News host Laura Ingraham for wearing a mask at the rally, calling her "politically correct".
Mr Trump signed coronavirus relief legislation in the spring that provides higher payments under Medicare, the program for the elderly and disabled, to hospitals treating patients with the virus. But the payments are tied to cases of the disease, not deaths or other outcomes, according to FactCheck.org, a nonprofit and nonpartisan news organisation.
States Mr Trump visited for campaign rallies on Friday - Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin - have all recently hit records for diagnoses of coronavirus infection. Mr Trump's rallies have been called public health threats by state and local officials and health authorities because they gather thousands of supporters with few precautions against transmission of the virus.
More than 9 million people in the US have contracted Covid-19 and at least 229,000 have died since the pandemic began. Cases are spiking across the country, with 14 states hitting record highs this week. The nation on Thursday topped 89,000 new cases in a day for the first time ever, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.