Chairman Neal Demands Answers About HHS’s Change to COVID-19 Data Reporting Process

Jul 27, 2020
Press Release
The abrupt change moves data away from the CDC to a private contractor
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) raised his strong concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the agency’s decision to abruptly change the reporting process of key COVID-19 data, giving hospitals five days to comply with the change. Hospitals previously reported information that is vitally important to fighting the pandemic to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but under the Trump Administration’s change, hospitals now report to a database administered by a private contractor.
“This hospital-reported data provides critical information on the COVID-19 spread and medical community capacity issues that guide key state and local decisions like testing sites, school openings, and other public health and economic decisions,” wrote Chairman Neal. “Creating an entirely new data platform called HHS Protect and shifting the reporting of such data away from the CDC towards a private contractor, which HHS did not publicize before it was reported in The New York Times raises important questions about the accessibility and accuracy of such data going forward.”
Neal concluded: "At a time when prompt access to data about the spread of COVID-19 and hospital capacity remains paramount, I worry that this decision and its associated implementation may erode public confidence in the integrity of available public health data. Any sort of political manipulation or efforts to withhold data related to COVID-19 is completely unacceptable.”
Chairman Neal requested answers to the following questions by August 3, 2020:
  • How did HHS determine that no more than five days notice was sufficient to change the reporting protocol?
  • Given the short period in time between the new guidance issued and change in reporting protocol, what type of trainings or outreach have HHS or TeleTracking conducted with hospitals to ensure there were no gaps in reporting and that no reporting data have been lost?  
  • How will HHS validate the data submitted by hospitals to HHS Protect going forward?  If HHS identifies issues related to the data, how will corrections be implemented?
  • With the new data collection, is HHS using data collection procedures as directed by the Paperwork Reduction Act?
  • How does information collected through these portals relate to the distribution of Remdesivir at hospitals by the Federal government?
  • NHSN is a database that existed prior to COVID-19 and will exist post-COVID-19, but HHS Protect is a new website.  What is the long-term plan with the data collected and displayed through this portal following the pandemic? 
  • Given uncertainty related to the new guidance and existing regulations for reporting by post-acute medical facilities, can you please clarify how post-acute medical facilities are to report information about COVID-19?
Read the full letter HERE.