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November 15, 2006
Pawlenty Shifts Leftward

Tim Pawlenty has decided that his second term as Governor in Minnesota will feature bipartisanship and accommodation with the new DFL-controlled legislature. In the first move of his new term, Pawlenty embraced universal health coverage for children underwritten by the state and demanded changes in the medical industry, while incongruently decrying government "meddling" in health care:

In a sweeping policy departure that aligns with a top agenda item of the newly elected DFL legislative majorities, Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Tuesday for extending health care access to up to 90,000 uninsured children as a step toward coverage for all Minnesotans.

"We all, I think, can chart a path toward universal coverage," he said in a luncheon speech to a health reform conference in Minneapolis. "We're going to have to move in stages. ... We should start with covering all kids."

Pawlenty also peppered his remarks with broad criticism of the nation's current "tattered, outdated, inefficient" health care system and hard shots at health maintenance organizations (HMOs), prescription drug advertising and political meddling in health policy.

Let's focus for just a moment on this last statement, which is so ludicrous as to be mind-blowing. Pawlenty and the DFL (the Minnesota Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party) want government to fund health coverage and demand that HMOs change their policies in some vague manner ... but don't want "political meddling" in health policy? What Pawlenty proposes constitutes political meddling. Having the state take on the burden of insuring all children distorts the market. It also puts the government in the position of having enormous market power to demand all sorts of changes in health policies and pricing. Does Pawlenty want us to believe that Minnesota won't use that power?

The DFL says we can insure the 90,000 uninsured Minnesota children for $46 million, or about $511 per year per child. That sounds a little high, but not out of the ballpark. However, what exactly does this cover? Are we talking about wellness visits, or full hospitalization, or something in between? If the state is the payor, it would probably be the latter by default, and the cost will be significantly higher than $500 per year per child.

Pawlenty also appears to have surrendered to the victim mentality prevalent with the DFL. He blames HMOs for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Why? Because these have increased over the years, and apparently HMOs hold all of the responsibility for it. That's ludicrous. Each one of those issues, insofar as they can be mitigated at all, have to be addressed by the individuals involved. All health-care companies have this information readily available, and in fact their business model improves as their clients get healthier. It's always been in their financial interest to reduce heart disease, obesity, and avoidable diabetes. HMOs can only give their clients information on diets and exercise -- they can't regulate their food intake and force them onto treadmills.

Republicans used to stand for personal responsibility, not corporate demonization. They also used to rely on the open market approach, not government intervention models. Apparently, Pawlenty has decided to drop all of the reasons Republicans voted for him and address all of the reasons Democrats did not. It's a disturbing start to the first Hatch term second Pawlenty term.

UPDATE: Scott Johnson reminds people of the cynical adage that advises people to vote for their oppostion, because they have no one to sell out to but you. He also finds fault with Pawlenty's attack on pharmaceutical advertising, another example of treating adults like children. Be sure to read his whole post.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 15, 2006 5:22 AM

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