Ernst Suggests Iowa Doctors Falsifying COVID Cases For Money

Photo by Julie Fleming

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst seemed to embrace on Monday a thoroughly-discredited QAnon conspiracy theory about U.S. deaths from COVID-19 being a mere fraction of what has been reported. As Amie Rivers of the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported, Ernst said she was “so skeptical” of the official death count when asked by an attendee if the government was over-reporting coronavirus deaths.

“They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19,” Ernst said, seemingly referring to the debunked conspiracy theory that only around 6% of COVID-19 deaths were due to the virus. “I’m just really curious. It would be interesting to know that.”

Going even further, however, Ernst also suggested that doctors were intentionally falsifying coronavirus cases in order to receive more money for caring for the patient.

“These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” she questioned the crowd.

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Ernst, who made the comments during an event in Black Hawk County with State Rep. Ashley Hinson, told the Courier that she had “heard the same thing on the news,” but wasn’t positive that was the case.

The reimbursement rate theory has been around since early this year, ever since a Minnesota legislator made the claim in a Fox News interview. However, as FactCheck.org wrote, “multiple experts told us that such theories of hospitals deliberately miscoding patients as COVID-19 are not supported by any evidence.”

More than that, such an accusation from Ernst means she’s implying that the Iowa doctors and nurses that are risking their lives on the front lines of the pandemic are intentionally lying about patients’ conditions. That is an extremely inflammatory accusation to suggest, especially for a sitting U.S. senator.

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The other claim, that the official U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is far lower than reported, is a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump, QAnon and some far-right commentators have embraced in recent weeks. It is so discredited and dangerous that Twitter removed one of Trump’s retweets from a QAnon account of the idea.

A QAnon member started a viral false claim that the CDC reclassified the COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to where only 6% of them were actually being due to the virus. This is incorrect. What the CDC released is statistics on “comorbidities” of those who passed away due to the virus, or essentially other health conditions that they had at the time of their death. The conspiracy theorists, which seem to also include Ernst, think that means that the 6% who only had COVID-19 listed as a health condition upon their death must mean that only those people died of COVID-19.

Think of it this way: if someone were to die in the car crash, but they also happened to have diabetes, it would be like saying that maybe they didn’t actually die from the accident, maybe instead the blunt-force trauma that killed them was due to their diabetes.

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This accusation too would mean that hundreds of thousands of health care professionals who are doing their best to fight this deadly pandemic are also actively engaged in a massive conspiracy to boost COVID-19 death rates for… some reason.

Again, these theories that Ernst is playing with are not simply far-right, anti-government theories, they also dishonor the health care professionals that Ernst herself has often called heroes during the pandemic.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 9/1/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.

48 Comments on "Ernst Suggests Iowa Doctors Falsifying COVID Cases For Money"

  • Wow. Conspiracy theories used to discredit your medical providers who are working hard to save the constituents you refused to protect. Nice.

  • Ernst is deteriorating rapidly into a total dimwit. This last persuades me to donate to Greenfield. Iowa deserves better.

  • Yes Iowa does deserve better! Ms Ernst has been corrupted by President Trump and The obstructionist Mitch McConnell! The GOP Senate has forgot they are a Separate Branch of Government not the Trump wing of government!

  • “Think of it this way: if someone were to die in the car crash, but they also happened to have diabetes, it would be like saying that maybe they didn’t actually die from the accident, maybe instead the blunt-force trauma that killed them was due to their diabetes.”
    This is a red herring fallacy! Diabetes would not be a contributing factor if someone dies in a car crash, and would therefore not be listed as a ‘comorbility’ on the death certificate.

    As this story clearly notes, 94% of deaths attributed to Covid-19 occurred in patients with, on average, nearly three additional comorbidities. Since fewer than 10% of deaths result in an autopsy (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db67.htm), it is readily apparent that vast majority of deaths attributed to Covid-19 were classified solely on the basis of a clinical/hospital diagnosis. No post-mortem is being performed to scientifically prove that Covid-19, rather than one of the comorbidities, is the actual cause of death. This is not a conspiracy theory; rather, it is an acknowledgement of the way that ’cause of death’ is determined in the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

  • Sen. Ernst must have fallen down and hit her head recently and now has post-concussion confusion.
    Otherwise she is becoming more and more desperate as she realizes there is only two months until the election. The wacko ideas of QAnon are supposed to upset the normal political debate and the Democrats should not respond to these outrageous claims. It is best to ignore these psychotic and dangerous ideas, and voters will realize that the candidates who support QAnon cannot be trusted.

  • All you have to do is compare this year’s mortality rates to those of previous years to see that there are now more than 200,000 more deaths than we would normally see.

    All those co-morbidity conditions did not suddenly become massively more lethal; the new factor is covid. Covid is the cause of those deaths.

  • This is such a brainless scheme it leaves out the fact that the CDC keeps death statistics they know how many people should die in a year they’ve been keeping them so long they know how many people should die out of a set population. The statistics tell us and will know more at the end of the year that right now there is an under count of several thousands but then again people who spin these tales are not the brightest. They’re just elected legislators. Give me a Dr. Fauci who understands the story and I’ll listen to him not this dumb ass.

  • I guess that means nobody actually dies from cancer. The simple fact — that even simpletons like Ernst are ignoring in the hopes that simpleton voters will, too — is that without COVID, most of these people would not be dead today. But hey, everyone dies eventually, so the actual Covid death toll is ZERO. Is that how this idiocy works?

  • Diabetes is a terrible example. Better would be something like AIDS. No one dies of AIDS. They die from the co-morbidities that having AIDS allowed to develop. Cause of death would be, say, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, not AIDS. But a healthy person with a functioning immune system would have never developed PCP. What allowed it to flourish was an impoverished immune system, which was caused by…AIDS.

  • So…she says this:

    “These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” she questioned the crowd.

    What she is saying is that businesses cannot be trusted without some kind of government oversight…that on their own, they won’t do the right thing.

    Funny, Ernst has voted for just about any de-regulation that has rolled across her desk but NOW *DOCTORS* are *OBVIOUSLY* taking advantage of some mythical extra payment for lying?

  • From California, on behalf of the nation:

    What happened to the Midwest? Haven’t you seen enough from today’s GOP to reject it?
    Trump, Ernst, McConnell? Will you continue to enable these liars, crooks, kooks and incompetents?

  • QAnon is becoming a significant force in the GOP as Trump and Trumpers indirectly, or directly, embrace its pro Trump conspiracy theories. It’s dangerous because the conspiracies usually have a veneer of reality combined with dark & resentful impulses. Boogaloo bois are the most blatantly dangerous manifestation of QAnon, but politicians, like Ernst, pose the most far-reaching threat, because of their influence. The QAnon threat is addressed in a later chapter of https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F6CG72N

  • My husband is a al doctor. Due to Corona virus, he has taken a big pay cut from the hospital where he works. This in no way jives with Ernst’s crass statement

  • My husband is a al doctor. Due to Corona virus, he has taken a big pay cut from the hospital where he works. This in no way jives with Ernst’s crass statement that doctors are making incorrect diagnosis about patients with Covid. How dare she? Does she plan to have a doctor help her with her inevitable medical problems? Hmm, No, Ms. Ernst, please rely on Trump to fix you up. You have earned it. Ashamed to live in Iowa.

  • Joni, You have lost your mind!!! I am not related to you & so glad after this idiotic Comment.
    I had Open Heart Surgery June 6th (Quadruple Bypass) during the COVID 19. The Hospital, Surgeons, Nurses, ICU, etc were Outstanding!!! You just thru every Health Care Worker under the Bus. I am still going to Rehab 3 days a week in this same Hospital. Every Day I “THANK THEM FOR SERVING”. unlike you.

  • A poster mentioned the misrepresented COVID death rate. 94% of deaths attributed to Covid-19 occurred in patients with, on average, nearly three additional comorbidities-was posted.

    When you see that “only 6%” of people had COVID-19 as the sole reason listed on their death forms, what it means is that there were only a small fraction of people who died of the disease who didn’t have any other underlying or immediate causes noted by the medical certifiers. This is completely unsurprising, as it’s pretty rare that someone wouldn’t have at least one issue caused by coronavirus
    prior to their death, and all it means is that in 94% of cases people who had COVID-19 also developed other issues, or had other problems at the same time.

    One way of looking at the precise number is to ask how many COVID-19 deaths had coronavirus as the UNDERLYING cause. That is, the cause that precipitated any other issues, or the thing that actually killed a person. The CDC has actually estimated this, and puts it at >95% of all COVID-19 deaths, meaning that the vast majority of deaths recorded as caused by coronavirus in the U.S. were caused by COVID-19.
    In other words, most COVID-19 deaths were almost certainly caused by COVID-19.

    https://medium.com/@gidmk/covid-19-deaths-are-mostly-caused-by-coronavirus-2a6d2d43bd09

  • When I think about what our government officials are claiming and then doing nothing about it, this is more disturbing than the actual exaggeration. Senator Ernst, et al are claiming hospital administrators and doctors are committing Medicare, Medicaid and insurance fraud on a massive scale. Because, to submit an insurance reimbursement form with a false diagnosis would be fraud on the government and the insurance industry. So while Ernst claims this is what is going on, while doing nothing to both investigate and stop it, is to allow it to continue. Her doing nothing is a violation of her oath of office as a U.S. Senator. To falsely accuse others of massive fraud is a violation of her oath of office.
    As a lawyer, any way I examine this the only conclusion I can come to is that Senator Ernst is unfit for office.

  • Many doctors who work in hospitals are paid with a salary. It is difficult for them to go thru a patient’s
    chart and list every diagnosis. The hospital will employ several coders who go thru charts and list each diagnosis and then attach a numerical code. The principal diagnosis is easy to determine and it is used for billing and any secondary problems are also listed in the final discharge summary.
    Hospital charts can be audited by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies. If any problems with inaccurate coding, the hospital can be fined. Doctors maintain detailed progress notes and they cannot be altered since they are recorded on a computer.
    The patient’s chart is a legal document and it would be a crime to change it.

  • I just can’t believe that these conspiracy theorists lack such a basic level of intellect. I feel certain that they are running interference for the present inept administration and will say whatever they need to conduct damage control.

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