“These healthcare providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” Ernst said during a campaign event on Monday after being asked whether she believes the figures have been inflated.
Health experts have acknowledged that the numbers being reported by state officials could be much higher than they actually are.
Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted earlier this summer that hospitals actually have an incentive to over-report coronavirus deaths.
Ernst, who is up for reelection this November, referenced this when asked why she was skeptical of the numbers.
She also brought up new data from the CDC that revealed only 6% of coronavirus deaths were directly caused by COVID-19. All other deaths were linked to underlying medical conditions or varying circumstances.
“They do get reimbursed higher amounts if it’s a COVID-related illness or death,” Ernst told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
“I heard the same thing on the news. … They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19. … I’m just really curious. It would be interesting to know that.”
Ernst’s Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, accused Ernst of not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously.
It’s appalling for you to say you’re “so skeptical” of the toll this pandemic has on our families and communities across Iowa, @joniernst.
— Theresa Greenfield (@GreenfieldIowa) September 2, 2020
Ernst’s Senate races is one of the tightest in the country. The Cook Political Report labeled it a “toss-up,” even though earlier this year Ernst’s seat was marked as “lean Republican.”