Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says she wants health care reform, but not what see views as a government takeover of health care.
Bachmann shared her concerns about the current Democratic proposal and listened to some sometimes angry comments from constituents Thursday during a public meeting in Lake Elmo.
Bachmann doesn't do many public meetings, but an overflow crowd of several hundred people showed up at Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo to talk about health care. The 6th district Republican is firmly opposed to a public option for health care coverage that would compete with private insurance companies. She repeatedly told supporters and critics that she views that approach as an unacceptable government takeover.
"We are a compassionate society," she said. "We will always have that safety net. We have to for people who need that. But let's not destroy what truly is the greatest health care system the world has ever known in order to be able to change this system."
Bachmann explained she would prefer legislation that allows individuals to own their own coverage. She sees a role for insurance cooperatives and tax-free health savings accounts. Bachmann said she also wants to allow health insurance providers to be able to do businesses across state lines. "If we allowed more competition among insurance companies rather than less competition, we would see more insurance products at cheaper prices," she said. "And people could buy what they want, the level of health insurance they want to buy."
Bachmann was joined by Rep. Michael Burgess, R.-Texas, a doctor who shares her views on health care reform. Burgess serves on a key House committee that shaped the bill, but he says Democrats were never interested in getting bipartisan support.
"They never even tried," he said. "They never even tried to bring me along and bring me in and say 'what is it going to take for you to bring some Republicans with you so we can have a true bipartisan effort?' They weren't interested in it."
No signs were allowed inside the school, and several Washington County deputies were on hand for security. The meeting was mostly civil but shouting erupted at times as people lined up at microphones and asked their questions. Irene Boone of Stillwater criticized Bachmann's opposition to a public option, and then she further riled Bachmann supporters by suggesting even more government coverage.
"Please support real national health care, also called universal, single payer," she said.
Others accused Bachmann of persistently distorting the Democratic health care proposal. LeRoy Schaffer of St. Francis used Bachmann's own words to make the case for a public option.
"And, I'll tell you, she's right," he said. "We've got the best health care in the world. The very best. Don't clap too soon. That's if you can afford it. Forty-seven million can't afford it."
But many 6th District residents share Bachmann's views and her concerns. Trent Hubbard, an elementary school teacher from Blaine, said he also fears a takeover of health care. But Hubbard went on to explain that he think President Obama wants to take over the White House, for far more than two terms.
"Whether by force, brute force or by a fraudulent rigged election," he said. "But I tie this into freedom. Because with this health care program goes our very freedom. And if people can't see that, then I'm sorry."
A spokeswoman for Bachmann says the congresswoman is planning a second town hall meeting for September, somewhere in the western part of the district. No other specifics have been decided.