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Bachmann health care forum gets heated

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann address a crowd of several hundred people who showed up Thursday for her health care town hall forum at Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo. (Scott Wente/Woodbury Bulletin)

LAKE ELMO, Minn. - The lively crowd gathered for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's health care town hall forum turned feisty at times, drowning out speakers with applause and boos.

Bachmann's Thursday afternoon forum drew several hundred people who packed a roughly 420-seat school auditorium. A couple of hundred more watched by video from the cafeteria. Bachmann's staff said there was room for 800 people at the school.

The 6th District Republican is an outspoken critic of Democratic health care overhaul proposals. Much of her criticism was aimed at a House Democratic bill that she said would result in a "government takeover" of the health care system and cost more than advocates claim.

"Here's another option that hasn't been talked about very much, and that's the option where you own your own health care - not government, not business," she said to loud applause.

Bachmann said Congress should make it easier for people to buy health insurance from companies across state lines. More private competition will result in more products at cheaper prices, she said.

"Let's not destroy what truly is the greatest health care system the world has ever known," Bachmann said.

"That's a lie," a man yelled.

"Shut up," another audience member responded.

Bachmann supporters decried what they said would be a vastly expanded government role in health care if Democrats get their way.

"Either do something good or do no harm," said Gary Baran of Woodbury. "(House Democrats' bill) is on the harm side."

Detractors of the two-term representative said comments made during the forum would not change Bachmann's position.

"With Michele Bachmann, to be honest I'm not confident she would be swayed by her constituents," 18-year-old Josh Meltzer said while waiting in line for the forum, which lasted a little over an hour and included questions about Medicare programs, insurance coverage and medical malpractice reform.

Bachmann's forum came on the heels of similar events in other Minnesota congressional districts during Congress' August recess. Those forums, while widely attended, generally lacked the raucous crowd outbursts witnessed at some forums held around the country this summer.

Joining Bachmann was fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas. The Rochester, Minn., native has a background in obstetrics.