Pawlenty encourages leaving health reform up to states

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty encouraged leaving health reform up to the states Sunday, saying the federal government had too poor of a track record with running entitlement programs.

"We need to have a clear understanding of what the federal government does well and what should be left to the states," Pawlenty, a potential 2012 hopeful for the Republican presidential nomination, said on ABC's "This Week."

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During a conference call with reporters Thursday night, Pawlenty had said "asserting the 10th Amendment may be a viable option" in the face of federally imposed changes to the healthcare system. The governor asserted Sunday, though, that his comments were "not so much a legal issue as a practical matter."

Still, Pawlenty stressed that the federal government had an "abysmal" record of running such programs, and that the "monstrosity" of a health insurance exchange would be no different.

"Every major entitlement program... is on a pathway to bankruptcy," Pawlenty said.

While acknowledging financial challenges, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called Medicare "a rousing success," focusing on the safety net it provided for seniors.

Pawlenty, calling healthcare experiments at the state level "the lab of democracy," brought up Massachusetts and Tennessee as programs that should give rise to concerns about healthcare programs at a national level.

Sebelius, while acknowledging problems with the out-of-control costs in Massachusetts and a Tennessee experiment that "did crash and burn," said it would be "impossible" to take health reform on a state-by-state basis.

"We need a national strategy," Sebelius said.

Pawlenty also said Sunday that "there's a legitimate concern" about the coverage of abortions under a national healthcare plan, saying it needed to be "very clear in the bill" that such services wouldn't be covered.

Sebelius said there was no cause for concern. "That's what [President Barack Obama] intends that the bill he'll sign will do," she said.