Sebelius Brushes Off Pawlenty’s Political Moves To Thwart Health Reform In His State

Whereas the overwhelming majority of states and governors who oppose the federal health care law are accepting its grants, Minnesota Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty (R) is only interested in the abstinence-only portions of the law. Pawlenty has issued an executive order (EO) preventing the state from applying for any more federal funding, noting in campaign-like rhetoric that reform “represents a dramatic attempt to assert federal command and control over this country’s health care system” and “includes unprecedented federal intrusions into individual liberty”:

NOW, THEREFORE, I hereby order that:

All executive branch departments and agencies are directed that no application shall be submitted to the federal government in connection with requests for grant funding for programs and demonstration projects deriving from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA” or “the Act”) (Pub.L. 111–148) unless otherwise required by law, or approved by the office of the Governor.

The order puts Pawlenty out of sync with many cities, counties, and businesses in his state — 97 of which applied for the law’s reinsurance grants. But the sheer transparency of Pawlenty’s effort was not lost on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today, who when asked about the governor’s EO, visibly snickered before noting that Minnesota residents are already benefiting from reform:


SEBELIUS: I’m afraid of citizens of Minnesota may be the victims of whatever it is that’s coming their way. I know we have companies from the great state of Minnesota who have applied to be part of this plan. … I know that we have seniors in Minnesota who have received $250 checks for prescription drug coverage because they have reached the prescription drug doughnut hole. … So I have no idea if those are the kinds of benefits he intends to eliminate for the citizens of Minnesota.

Watch Sebelius’ reaction at 0:28:

In the order, Pawlenty also notes that he has already determined that Minnesota will “not participate in the early expansion of the Medicaid entitlement program offered by the federal government as part of the legislation” or apply for federal grants that could help the state review unreasonable premium hikes.

Cross-posted from The Wonk Room.