Earlier this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) issued an executive order directing “all state agencies not to participate in the federal health care overhaul,” specifically demanding they not seek any discretionary funding available through the Affordable Care Act. In issuing the order, Pawlenty vowed to do “anything that I can do to slow down, limit or negate Obamacare,” warning that it “threatens private sector economic growth.” Immediately, the move and its implicit attack on President Obama were seen as a means to position Pawlenty for a presidential bid in 2012. Indeed, his Political Action Committee promptly tried to raise money off of Pawlenty’s order.
But his claim about the law’s danger to businesses were quickly undercut. As the AP reported, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is calling on Pawlenty to accept the funds:
Chamber President David Olson sent a letter to the Republican governor this week encouraging him to specifically apply for a $1 million federal planning grant to study a potential health insurance exchange.
“This grant does not require the state to create an exchange,” Olson wrote. “Instead, it allows for an independent and comprehensive actuarial analysis of an exchange. The analysis will help us determine whether or not an exchange is a cost effective option for Minnesotans shopping for health care coverage.”
Olson also stressed that an exchange could possibly have a significant impact on Minnesota businesses.
The state Chamber is not alone here. The Minnesota Medical Association and the 20,000-member Minnesota Nurses Association both blasted Pawlenty for refusing the money, calling on him to immediately relent and accept the funds.
But in urging Pawlenty to take federal money available through the Affordable Care Act, the Minnesota Chamber seems to be breaking with with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has relentlessly attacked the health care plan since before it became law. Still, while many of the U.S. Chamber’s right-wing allies have signed onto an effort to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Chamber has tellingly hedged, saying full repeal “is not a realistic option.” The Chamber has led efforts to repeal small portions of the Act, but perhaps they quietly realize — as it appears the Minnesota Chamber has — that the law can actually be very helpful to businesses.