Pawlenty restricts Minnesota's participation in healthcare reform law

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) restricted his state's participation in the healthcare reform law.

On Tuesday, the possible 2012 presidential candidate signed an executive order directing state agencies to decline all discretionary participation in the new law. 

As a result, none of Minnesota's executive branch departments and agencies can submit applications for grants or demonstration projects unless required by the new law or approved by the governor's office. The order also reaffirms that the state will not participate in an early expansion of the Medicaid program before 2014.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has calculated that about 250,000 Minnesotans would join the Medicaid rolls under the expansion. Pawlenty has said it would cost the state $430 million in the first three years.

"Obamacare is an intrusion by the federal government into personal healthcare matters and it's an explosion of federal spending that does nothing to make healthcare more affordable," Pawlenty said in a statement. "To the fullest extent possible, we need to keep Obamacare out of Minnesota. This executive order will stop Minnesota's participation in projects that are laying the groundwork for a federally-controlled healthcare system."

The Democratic National Committee lost no time in tying the order to Pawlenty's reported White House ambitions.

"After ... denying health care to a quarter million of his fellow Minnesotans, Tim Pawlenty’s executive order to state employees might as well have read 'You will henceforth work for my presidential ambitions instead of the people of Minnesota,' " DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan said in a statement.

Pawlenty turned down an $850,000 sex-education grant on Monday, and Minnesota was one of five states — along with Alaska, Georgia, Iowa and Wyoming — not to apply for a $1 million healthcare reform grant to strengthen its health insurance rate review process. But the state already has one of the strictest rate review requirements in the country and may not have seen a need for the grants, Brian Webb of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners told reporters recently.

Likewise, the effects of Tuesday's executive order are murky, since it's not clear whether the state can apply for federal grants without the governor signing off. Pawlenty, who has in the past criticized excessive federal spending, has yet to decide whether to accept $263 million in enhanced Medicaid payments that Congress passed just before the August recess.

The two-term governor, who is term-limited after November, has not said if he'll run for president in 2012. But he has made visits to the important early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and has donated to several Republican candidates through his PAC. He was said to be on the vice presidential short list in 2008.