Undoubtedly hoping to once and for all settle this "Obamacare" thing, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota appeared on CNN on Friday to defend the Republican push to defund it. Host Wolf Blitzer challenged Bachmann's assertions, leading to a lively-if-weird segment.
So who won the debate? To figure this out, we went point-by-point, awarding points and evaluating the debate. We don't want to give away the ending (Blitzer won) so read on! (The full clip isn't yet at the CNN website, but it is available at Mediaite.com.)
Round 1: Will women and children will die under Obamacare?
CNN introduced the segment by noting Bachmann's comments from the floor of the House, seen at right, as well as the president's refutation of those arguments during his speech on Thursday. (We've pulled out Bachmann's transition to a smile, below.)
Blitzer: Do you really believe if this law — and it is a law passed by the House, passed by the Senate, signed into law by the president, approved by the Supreme Court — goes into effect that women, seniors, children are going to die?
Bachmann: That's the greatest fear that Americans have. And the president got a big applause line when he made that statement. But it will be very unpleasant if the death panels go into effect — that's the IPAB board. If we have denial of care for women, children, senior citizens. Or if we have problems where people aren't given the drugs that they need — maybe they'll be denied drugs for breast cancer. You bet this can happen. That is what i'm worried about. People all across the united states. This is literally an issue of life and death.
Winner: Blitzer. Bachmann is afraid that Obamacare will lead to denials of drug coverage and to denials of care for women and old people, that maybe people with breast cancer won't get medicine. Because those things never happen under the current system! Actually, the breast cancer one probably doesn't, because no insurance company would cover someone with so severe a preexisting condition. Go Google "denied coverage" and see what comes up. Is it nothing? No? Then maybe Bachmann's point — which she twice blames on the American people at large — is invalid.
Round 2: Will Obamacare help or hurt more people?
Blitzer pressed the point.
Blitzer: Don't you realize that … millions and millions of Americans will now have health insurance; earlier, they didn't have health insurance.
Bachmann: Millions and millions of Americans are losing health insurance right now. They're being thrown off their employer-paid health insurance …
Blitzer: But they'll be eligible to go to the exchanges and buy insurance.
Bachmann: Not necessarily. I was in a meeting this morning. We were told again that the people thrown into the exchanges, the health care premiums that they'll have to pay — even when they're subsidized — will be more than what they're paying now. I firmly believe that we could see that more people are actually going to be negatively impacted by Obamacare than helped. Just the office of what the president's hopes were.
Winner: Blitzer. Honestly, if Bachmann had just stuck to this weird "meeting" she was in, she might have taken this one. While the price of insurance in the exchanges being established next month are lower than expected, there will be cases where exchange plans are more expensive than what someone might otherwise have paid.
But her other points are just inexplicable. "Millions and millions of Americans are losing health insurance?" What? Where? We looked at the effect on businesses and found some roll-backs in coverage, but by no means enough to affect millions of people. That's a lot of people! Bachmann, a fan of hyperbole, let her rhetoric get away from her.
As she did when she instinctively replied "not necessarily" to Blitzer's assertion that those imaginary millions could sign up for insurance on the exchanges. "Not necessarily"? Necessarily! That's why they exist! You can't rail against the mandate of coverage and then say coverage is optional! That's cheating!
Round 3: Should taxpayers cover people without insurance who go to emergency rooms?
Blitzer: Is it fair that people who can afford to buy health insurance could become freeloaders and taxpayers will take care of them if they get into an emergency medical situation? Is that fair?
Bachmann: The fairness … that is … lacking in Obamacare is clear because President Obama has changed Obamacare over 19 times now. He has an uneven playing field. So if you are a political favorite of the president's, you've just got an exemption. Big business got a huge exemption, not the American people!
We're just going to jump in here and say Winner: Blitzer because Bachmann's response is nonsensical and incorrect. In the video, you can see her scrambling for a response. She picked a bad one. (Big business, for example, is hardly a political favorite of the president.)
Blitzer: Are you happy there are people out there who have money but they decide they don't want to buy health insurance — but that we'll take care of them no matter what?
Bachmann: What you're talking about is a very, very tiny percentage of the American people. ...
Blitzer: Have you been to an emergency room? You see what's going on?
Bachmann: My oldest son is a physician. I've been to an emergency room many times.
Blitzer: So you know, you know who shows up. These are people who don't have health insurance, and we take care of them.
Bachmann: Quite often it's illegal aliens. Illegal aliens show up, so we the American taxpayer are picking up the tab for people who aren't American citizens.
Blitzer: That's another subject. What about if you're an American citizen and you could afford to buy health insurance and you don't. You just want to take advantage of the situation.
Bachmann: The bottom line of your question, Wolf: Is it fair that the American people are picking up the tab for other people's health care. we have over 300 hundred million Americans. The estimate was 46 million Americans didn't have health care, but that also included illegal aliens. We know now the estimate from the government is that about 30 million people are going to be cut off their employer's health insurance because of Obamacare.
Blitzer: I don't know where you're getting …
Bachmann: This is a very bad, bad conclusion!
Blitzer: I don't know where you're getting 30 million people.
Bachmann: From the government. From the federal government.
Blitzer: That's not true. You have to show me those numbers.
Yeah. Winner: Blitzer. Unless Bachmann was told these "federal government" numbers in this unidentified meeting this morning, it's not clear where they come from. There are a lot of numbers in the neighborhood of 30 million that float around in conjunction with Obamacare, many of them repeated and revised on anti-Obamacare websites. So maybe these are classified numbers the administration only shared with Republicans? Unclear.
Anyway, there aren't many Americans who don't have insurance who go to the hospital, because the hospital is simply choked with undocumented immigrants. As with so much else in Bachmann's world, it is their fault. A 2000 study found that the total cost of these immigrants' healthcare that year, including emergency room visits, was just north of a billion dollars. Less than one percent of Medicaid costs cover that community.
The interview goes on for another five minutes, mostly not about Obamacare and mostly less contentious. But in this modern Lincoln-Douglas contest, the winner was clear: the long-standing-but-flawed CNN anchor easily dispatched the retiring congresswoman. But everyone came away smiling.