WINTERSET, Iowa - Michele Bachmann tried to explain her health care policy to a worried woman without health insurance on Saturday, as her campaign tried to explain the embarrassing exodus of several New Hampshire staffers.
At a town hall meeting here, a woman who identified herself as a 63-year-old without health insurance challenged Bachmann about what she is going to do to replace President Obama's health care law.
The GOP presidential contender has said she will make repealing it her top priority.
"My son is 22 and he's on an expanded Medicaid program that's under 'Obamacare,'" the woman said to Bachmann. "You often talk about stopping 'Obamacare.' I want to know what you're going to do ... I can't afford $1,000 a month."
The questioner shook her head and looked annoyed as the 55-year-old Minnesota congresswoman recalled her own parents paying $5 when she visited the doctor as a child in Iowa.
Bachmann blamed federal government intervention for raising prices, and contended that increasing competition among insurance companies and reining in medical malpractice costs will help make health insurance more affordable.
She also suggested private charity as an option.
"We will always have people in this country through hardship, through no fault of their own, who won't be able to afford health care," Bachmann said. "That's just the way it is. But usually what we have are charitable organizations or hospitals who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for the indigent who can't afford it.
"But what we have to do is be a profitable nation that's growing, so that we can pay for those people who can't afford it through no fault of their own. Once 'Obamacare' is gone, this is what we have to do."
Bachmann's comments came on a day that her campaign staff was trying to minimize an embarrassing blowup in another key early-voting state. In a long-distance argument with Bachmann's former New Hampshire state director, a spokeswoman for her presidential campaign denied that all of Bachmann's staff in the Granite State quit, although she acknowledged several resignations.
The spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, downplayed the significance of the exodus, saying campaign staffers in New Hampshire were frustrated that the congresswoman wasn't spending more time there. "To be honest, we are focusing on Iowa and we weren't there as much as they would have liked," Stewart said. "We shifted some resources to Iowa ... it's not that New Hampshire is not important, but our focus is on Iowa."
Stewart said the departing New Hampshire staffers never informed Bachmann's national campaign staff, resulting in an odd disconnect on Friday when the congresswoman denied the resignations even as her ex-New Hampshire state director was confirming them.
The former state director, Jeff Chidester, told National Journal and CBS News that he sent word of his resignation "to someone extremely close to Michele," and said that at least four of Bachmann's New Hampshire staffers have quit.
"If the national team is still confused, then the people who had that information clearly didn't convey it," he said.
Chidester painted the picture of a campaign in disarray. "The reasons this team left was certainly a lack of synergy between the national and state team," he said.