Pawlenty’s tiresome health care games

PAWLENTY’S TIRESOME HEALTH CARE GAMES…. Last week, Minnesota, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), desperate to pander to the party’s base in advance of his presidential campaign, issued an order to state officials this week, demanding that they not seek grants through Affordable Care, even if the funding would help Minnesotans.

Today, however, Pawlenty announced he’ll seek Medicaid funding, approved in a recently-passed jobs bill. This isn’t exactly a reversal — though he did condemn the legislation that included the Medicaid funding the governor now wants — because the governor only said he’d refuse funding from the health care reform law, and this money comes from a different law.

But this, of course, once again raises the question as to why Pawlenty would be so irresponsible in the first place. Indeed, the governor’s line — he’ll accept some, but not all, federal health care funding — is increasingly incoherent. This petty little ideologue is willing to apply for money that will help his state, but only if it comes from laws signed by presidents other than Obama.

Minnesota’s largest newspaper slammed the governor’s recklessness last week, explaining that his politically-motivated game will deny the state much-needed funds and have a “negative impact on Minnesota lives.” Rochester’s Post-Bulletin, which is generally very friendly towards Pawlenty, also let him have it over the weekend.

Now, it seems, Pawlenty is much more interested in broadening his national profile and traveling to Republican fundraisers in places like Iowa and New Hampshire than he is in pursuing what’s best for Rochester, Mayo Clinic or, for that matter, the entire state of Minnesota.

This political metamorphosis from parochial governor to grandstanding political attention-seeker was evident this week when the governor ordered state agencies to not apply for grants available through the new federal health care law.

The Mayo Clinic, Minnesota’s largest private employer, is unhappy with the consequences of Pawlenty’s partisan games. The heads of Minnesota’s most influential medical associations — which nearly always keep political matters at arms’ length — also issued a sharp rebuke. “The governor’s decision just doesn’t make sense for Minnesotans,” the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, the Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Medical Association said in a joint statement late Tuesday.

Even Minnesota’s Chamber of Commerce thinks Pawlenty should reconsider at least some of this decision.

I don’t doubt the governor will get a nice little talking point out of this, which may even impress GOP activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. But I wonder if Pawlenty knows or cares about the real-world effects of turning down health care funding in his state. As the Post-Bulletin editorial board asked, “[H]ow does diverting millions, and perhaps billions, of federal money away from the state of Minnesota help us out of our state’s economic troubles, improve health care accessibility and move the state forward?”

It doesn’t, but since Pawlenty will be a former governor in about four months, he apparently doesn’t care.