Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Senator Joni Ernst says she is skeptical about the number of Covid cases and deaths being reported in the United States.

“That should be discussed because I heard the same thing on the news traveling across the state today is that they’re thinking there may be 10,000 deaths or less that were actually singularly Covid-19,” Ernst said during an interview with The Waterloo Courier. “Now, no doubt that there are deaths and it creates complications with those that have other illnesses certainly, but those that are just attributable to Covid-19, I’m just really curious. It would be interesting to know that.”

President Trump recently tweeted about the lower Covid death count Ernst is citing. Twitter has removed the tweet. White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday it is accurate to say more than 180,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

Ernst spoke with Waterloo Courtier reporter Amie Rivers after meeting with a crowd on a farm in rural Waterloo yesterday. Ernst suggested in remarks to the crowd that coronavirus counts may be inflated by the health care industry, due to higher reimbursement rates for care of Covid patients.

“I can’t actually look at that information, but I have heard it from health care providers that they do get reimbursed higher amounts if it’s a Covid-related illness or death, so because of the additional expense for PPE and the treatment that might be necessary for Covid-19,” Ernst told Rivers.

Radio Iowa has asked the Iowa Hospital Association and the state’s largest private insurer for comment on Ernst’s assertion. A spokesperson for the state has not replied to questions about whether the government’s reimbursement rates for Medicaid patient care are higher if the patient has Covid compared to some other illness.