PoliGraph: Bachmann misleads with health care claim

Long before it was on the books, Rep. Michele Bachmann positioned herself as one of the most vocal critics of the new federal health care law.

It remains a signature issue for the 6th Congressional District Republican, and earlier this week she found a new flaw in the law: it could allow the government to limit insurance coverage for births.

“Women have a lot to lose under ‘Obamacare,'” Bachmann said during a March 6, 2012 interview on a Glenn Beck TV program called Real News From the Blaze. Bachmann claimed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “said that it’s important that we have contraceptives because that prevents pregnancy, and pregnancy is more expensive to the federal government.”

“Going with that logic, according to our own Health and Human Services secretary, it isn’t far-fetched to think that the President of the United States could say ‘We need to save health care expenses. The federal government will only pay for one baby to be born in the hospital per family, or two babies to be born per family.'”

Bachmann goes further to say that she does not think President Barack Obama’s administration is considering such caps. But her leap in logic is misleading.

The Evidence

The health care law requires that new private health insurance plans cover an array of preventative care. In 2011, the Institutes of Medicine suggested contraception should be included, which most government plans, including Medicaid, already pay for.

Religiously-affiliated employers, including Catholic hospitals and charities, said paying for contraceptives would violate their beliefs. As a result, the Obama administration ultimately decided that insurers, rather than religiously-affiliated employers, would fully cover contraception.

That means a female professor working at a Catholic university will still have access to free contraception, but her employer won’t have to pay for it.

It is true Sebelius said that contraception could lower the cost of health care by preventing unintended pregnancies.

“Providing contraception as a critical preventative health benefit for women and their children reduces health care costs,” she argued during a House committee hearing on the new contraception rules.

But that’s where Bachmann’s claim gets off track. To say that the contraception policy is just a step away from a government policy that limits births is far-fetched.

The new health care law does not cap insurance for child birth, nor does it give the Obama administration new authority to do so.

Further, the Obama administration has not indicated it wants to change insurance coverage for child birth.

Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness explained in an e-mail that Bachmann’s comments were meant to underscore her concern that Obama has overstepped his authority on the contraception rule.

“There is a fundamental difference between her position, and that of the Obama Administration,” Rogness wrote. “That is, no presidential administration should ever be able to mandate who pays for certain services.”

The Verdict

Bachmann’s statement is carefully worded. She doesn’t go so far as to say that the administration is implementing this policy, only that it could.

But the new health care law does not limit how many births are covered by insurance, nor has the administration in any way indicated that it would ever adopt such a policy in the first place.

Bachmann’s claim is at best misleading.


The Blaze, Bachmann Warns: Feds Could Use Budget to Limit Number of Babies Born per Family, March 6, 2012

The News House, Sebelius Explains White House’s Contraception Compromise, Feb. 10, 2012

Kaiser Family Foundation, Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives, February 21, 2012

YouTube, Sebelius on contraception, March 1, 2012

CNN, Birth control should be fully covered under health plans, report says, by Madison Park, July 19, 2011

Institute of Medicine, Clinical Preventative Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, July 19, 2011

The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary on New Health Reform Law, accessed March 8, 2012

Testimony provided by the Institute of Medicine, Committee on Preventive Services for Women, Linda Rosenstock, MD, MPH

E-mail exchange, Becky Rogness, spokeswoman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, March 8, 2012

  • Dan

    Yeah, right. And Michelle doesn’t have any political motivations in an election year for a public signing? (If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I will sell you — cheap!)

  • Pat Sexton

    You really think you needed to clear this up – that anyone who heard Rep. Bachmann thought “Golly, we have a third child on the way – are we breaking the law?”


  • Once again you have an opinion, but where are the facts. Bachman is clear she is making a logical argument, not a factual claim:

    “”Going with that logic, according to our own Health and Human Services secretary, it isn’t far-fetched to think that the President of the United States could say ‘We need to save health care expenses. The federal government will only pay for one baby to be born in the hospital per family, or two babies to be born per family.'””

    The real problem with her statement has nothing to do with that logical connection and Obama apparently would have the authority to set a minimum coverage for the number of births just as he can for contraceptives. But that is different than setting a maximum which is what Bachman’s logic requires.

    Moreover, Bachman insinuates that under the health care law the federal government is paying for contraceptives or child birth. It isn’t. It is setting that as the minimum standard for private insurance.

    Moreover, since Bachman apparently opposes the entire health care law, she apparently opposes any minimum requirement to pay for child birth.

    What’s misleading your incomplete discussion of the issues Bachman raises in order to allow a simple, media friendly, conclusion. It helps explain why the public that relies on the media for information and understanding of issues is generally ill-informed.

  • C.J. Simones

    With all due respect, Miss Richert, you either demonstrate your political bias in your evaluation of Rep. Bachmann’s words or show yourself to be much too obtuse to be making these declarations.

    Rep. Bachmann’s point spoke to this administration’s propensity to believe it knows what is best in Americans’ daily lives up to and including how much better this country would be if we the unwashed would just not be so fertile.

    I also think, whether intentional or not, Rep. Bachmann’s words make an even more insightful point: one of the more insidious aspects to this odious piece of legislation is how breathtakingly arbitrary it is. For those of us that have read every agonizing page of this pile of offal, it is dizzying how many times the words “As the Secretary shall determine” appear. Even if you love this piece of congressional malpractice, what’s to prevent future, more rational, administrations from reversing every bit of Sebellius-inspired ham-handedness, “as [that future] Secretary shall determine?”

    Please, Ms. Richert, try to work a little harder expanding your cognition to include things more subtle.