Michael Isikoff–6/28/2011 7:46:46 PM
While Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., 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.
When asked by anchor Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” about the story’s assertion that her husband’s counseling clinic had also gotten federal and state funds, Bachmann replied that it was “one-time training money that came from the federal government. And it certainly didn’t help our clinic.”
At another point, she said, “My husband and I did not get the money,” adding that it was “mental health training money that went to the employees.”
But state records show that Bachmann & Associates has been collecting payments under the Minnesota’s Medicaid program every year for the past six years. Karen Smigielski, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said the state’s Medicaid program is funded “about 50-50” with federal and state monies. The funds to Bachmann & Associates are for the treatment of low-income mentally ill patients and are based on a “fee for service” basis, meaning the clinic was reimbursed by Medicaid for the services it provided.
Smigielski added that these were not the only government funds that Bachmann & Associates has received. The clinic also participates in managed-care plans that are reimbursed under a separate state-funded Minnesota Health Care program. But the state does not have any records of payment information to the individual clinics that participate. (During her Fox News appearance, Bachmann was not asked about Medicaid payments, and she made no mention of them.)
Another state official, Patrice Vick, communications manager for the Human Services Department, said she was puzzled by Michelle Bachmann’s assertion on the broadcast that the funds under the state grant went to employees. While the grant was to train employees to help them treat chemical dependency, the money did not go directly to those being trained, she said. “It went to the clinic,” Vick said.
“The contract was with the clinic,” Vick added later. But she had no immediate information about whether the clinic passed it along directly to the employees being trained or used it to cover its costs of training.
The issue of her receipt of government aid has gotten attention because Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, has been a fierce critic of federal spending programs and has called for drastic cutbacks. This has especially been the case on health care, including the expansions of Medicaid called for under the new health care law.
When Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order earlier this year expanding the state’s Medicaid program for more than 95,000 state residents, Bachmann was joined state Republican lawmakers in denouncing the move.
“Right now, Governor Dayton is wanting to commit Minnesota taxpayers to add even more welfare recipients on the welfare rolls at a very great cost,” Bachmann said at a news conference in St. Paul in January.
“She’s giving hypocrisy a bad name,” said Ron Pollock, executive director of Families USA, a consumer health care advocacy group, when asked about the Medicaid payments to Bachmann & Associates. “It’s clear when it feathers her nest she’s happy for Medicaid expenditures. But people that really need it — folks with disabilities and seniors — she’s turning their backs on them.”
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