The Corner

Muddled Medicaid

So Michele Bachmann’s husband received compensation from Medicaid as part of his business. Michael Isikoff reports:

While Rep. Michele Bachmann has forcefully denounced the Medicaid program for swelling the “welfare rolls,” the mental health clinic run by her husband has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling over $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005, according to new figures obtained by NBC News. 

The previously unreported payments are on top of the $24,000 in federal and state funds that Bachmann & Associates, the clinic founded by Marcus Bachmann, a clinical therapist, received in recent years under a state grant to train its employees, state records show. The figures were provided to NBC News in response to a Freedom of Information request. 

The clinic, based in Lake Elmo, Minn., describes itself on its website as offering “quality Christian counseling” for a large number of mental health problems ranging from “anger management” to addictions and eating disorders.

The $161,000 in payments from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to her husband’s clinic appear to contradict some of Michelle Bachmann’s public accounts this week when she was first asked about the extent to which her family has benefited from government aid. Contacted this afternoon, Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Bachmann, said the congresswoman was doing campaign events and was not immediately available for comment.

Questions about the Bachmann family’s receipt of government funds arose this week after a Los Angeles Times story reported that a family farm in which Michelle Bachmann is a partner had received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.

As a matter of political messaging, I think Bachmann shot herself in the foot here, because I don’t understand what the big deal is about a business taking Medicaid funding or for that matter farm subsidies they are entitled to under the law. I gather the brunt of the relevance is that it is somehow hypocritical for a health-care business to take Medicaid funds if the owner — or his spouse — wants to reform Medicaid.

If that’s the gist, that is incredibly stupid. Would it be better if Marcus Bachmann’s clinic refused to treat poor people on the grounds that they could only pay with Medicaid dollars? Are farmers supposed to turn checks down on principle when the federal government so distorts the market that refusing to take the checks puts you at such a comparative disadvantage you might not stay in business? Do rich liberals — like the Obamas — continue to pay the Clinton tax rates since they oppose the Bush tax cuts?

It seems to me that the Bachmanns should be congratulated for taking a position on principle against their own  interests, at least in the short term. But I guess according to liberal logic, they’re brazenly benefiting from government programs while they denounce government programs!

Yes, exactly. And I say good for them. It’s like Koch Industries. Liberals sometimes claim they’re hypocrites for taking advantage of ethanol subsidies and other market-distorting policies. Koch’s response is they’re standing on principle in their opposition even though it hurts their bottom line.

It’s too bad Bachmann couldn’t have said, simply, “Sure, my husband is a small businessman and I’m a small businesswoman. The government’s involved in so much these days it’s almost impossible not to get sucked into the system in one way or another. That’s one of the reasons we want to change it. We could take the easy route and simply let the government buy our silence, but we think there’s a better way. But until we can change the system, we have no choice but to be part of it.”

Update: A reader writes:

A better Bachmann response to the Clinic Medicare kerfuffle would be something like this:

“Compared to Obama giving waivers to all his friends and cronies while at the sametime time shoving financially crippling universal health-care down the throats of those businesses who are not….well, talk about hypocrisy!.”

I agree with the substance, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to turn the tables back on Obama. But the one problem with a simple counter-attack is that it looks non-responsive and very defensive. I prefer the following approach: Address the charge, clear the air, and then counter-attack.


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