Disparities in Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 nursing home data took center stage at a hearing for President Joe Biden’s pick to become assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Lawmakers grilled Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine about local media reports that said the state’s health department consistently had incorrect nursing home death and case data in its weekly reporting on more than 100 facilities.

The questioning came after New York officials revealed they had intentionally withheld coronavirus nursing home death information out of fear it could be used against them. At the same time, an investigation by the New York attorney general found that the state may have undercounted related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.

“You assured me that Pennsylvania did not do what New York did, that it accurately reported,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said to Levine during the confirmation hearing Thursday. 

Levine said any discrepancies in the data were due lags in time between when a case or death was reported and when it was actually uploaded to the state’s electronic death reporting system. 

A report by Spotlight PA, however, claimed that the problem originated because the state allowed providers to self-report their data to separate online portals and not through the state’s system, with the lack of uniformity leading to incomplete records.