Bachmann and Associates, Inc., a Christian mental health clinic founded and run by Rep. Michele Bachmann’s husband, has been taking money from Minnesota’s coffers since it was founded in 2003. It’s the latest example of a disjuncture in Bachmann’s rhetoric: the Sixth District Republican has seen her star rise in Tea Party circles for fiery rhetoric opposing government “handouts” and “socialized medicine,” while, again, she’s found to be directly benefiting from government funds. Since 2007, the clinic, run by Marcus Bachmann, has taken in nearly $30,000.
In recent months, Rep. Bachmann has sharply criticized efforts by Democrats to offer a “public option” or a public health insurance plan, calling such ideas “socialized medicine.”
In November 2009, as she was gearing up for her House Call tea party to oppose health care reform, she said, “This is the most effective way we have to kill socialized medicine and to do it this week.”
She added, “Nothing is more effective at reaching a congressman than having a citizen come to Washington, D.C. – not asking for a handout, not asking for tax money, not asking to take some liberty away from somebody else, but just asking for freedom.”
But Minnesota has it’s own version of “socialized medicine” for low-income families, called Medical Assistance, and Bachmann’s family business actively sought to gain access to these taxpayer funds.
According to data obtained by the Minnesota Independent, Bachmann and Associates, Inc., opened in the summer of 2003 and applied for a Rule 29 license, which was approved in the fall of 2003. Minnesota Department of Human Services’ application materials (pdf) for Rule 29 certification describe the program as one that “establishes standards for community mental health centers and clinics in Minnesota” and “is required for certain categories of Medical Assistance payments.”
Entering into the program is voluntary: not all mental health clinics in Minnesota apply for Rule 29 certification. In addition to the Rule 29 program, Bachmann and Associates also applied for and was accepted into the Rule 31 program, which is similar to the Rule 29 except it also covers payments for chemical dependency treatment.
Information from the state’s Transparency and Accountability Project (TAP) shows the Bachmann’s earning $27,564 in state payments since 2007. The clinic likely received more, since TAP’s online data only records payouts given since 2007.
According to the transparency project, Bachmann and Associates took $1,419 in public money in 2007, $13,140 in 2008, $12,493 in 2009 and $512 so far in 2010.
Jim Duffett of the Campaign for Better Health Care called Bachmann’s words and actions hypocritical.
“Yes, she is taking money from government programs, which she calls ‘socialism,’ and at the same time taking taxpayers money to help cover the clinic’s health care costs,” he said. Her family business is taking in taxpayer money, he said, “and at the same time demanding that taxes be cut.”
“Rep. Bachmann’s opposition to public health coverage seems quite selective,” added Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a health care consumers group. “When it helps her pocketbook she is for it. When it enables working families to attain affordable health coverage, she’s against it.”
He added, “This double standard harms working families in Minnesota and across the nation.”
While some groups are critical of Bachmann, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative group that advocates lower taxes, said that some private insurance companies may require state certification and that may be the reason the clinic applied for Rule 29.
“I’m not sure how much of this stuff is voluntary for a clinic to follow, at least insofar as wanting to do significant business with private insurers versus accepting only private clients who pay out-of-pocket,” he said.
He also said the the current policies present a conundrum for business owners advocating for limited government.
“This type of funding has always presented a policy dilemma for limited-government supporters,” he said. “Is it best to campaign for rolling back the funding altogether so it never gets to government’s coffers in the first place, or, knowing the funding will keep flowing to government’s coffers anyway, try to make sure that the money is administered by qualified private groups rather than under-qualified agencies?”
“With the latter, there’s always the danger that the private groups will become dependent on the government funds. With the former, there’s the danger that if the funding isn’t repealed, it will keep going to government agencies that will waste the money,” he said. “I don’t know where Rep. Bachmann stands on that question, but it’s the one worth asking.”
Bachmann’s office did not respond to the Minnesota Independent’s request for comment.
The mental health clinic’s Medical Assistance funding isn’t the first instance when Bachmann, whose anti-socialist views are highlighted in the new documentary Socialism: A Biblical Response, has taken money from the government. According to a 2007 report, Bachmann’s family received more than $250,000 in farm subsidies, mostly for dairy and corn, over the last decade.