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Bachmann joins Minnesota lawmakers seeking Medicaid audit

ST. PAUL -- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann made her first Minnesota Capitol news conference since leaving the presidential race one supporting a state effort to increase health-care organizations' accountability.

The Minnesota Republican said Monday she plans to introduce a federal bill similar to one recently introduced in the Minnesota Legislature to require independent audits of health maintenance organizations.

The push began last week when Minnesota lawmakers heard that one HMO returned $30 million it said the state overpaid. That left questions of whether other insurers also may have received too much government money.

Bachmann and state lawmakers said they are not accusing HMOs of doing anything wrong.

"A lack of oversight creates a climate of complacency," Bachmann said.

Bills are needed on the state and federal levels, lawmakers said.

"This is about transparency and accountability," state Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, said.

State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said the state does receive reports from HMOs.

"What we are getting is a lot of data, but not much information," she said.

A bill authored by state Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, with Democratic and Republican support, requires an independent audit of the use of federal Medicaid funds given to the state.

The Minnesota Medicaid program is known as Medical Assistance. It funds health care for the poor and disabled.

Bachmann said that even as she was traveling the country campaigning she had never heard of a Medicaid accountability problem. She said her staff is in the initial process of investigating, but she plans to follow Nienow's lead and introduce a federal version of his proposal.

The congresswoman refused to answer most questions other than those dealing with Medicaid, but did say she would seek re-election regardless of how a judicial panel redraws congressional district maps. Those maps are due to be released today and could throw her into the same district as another U.S. House member.