CCHC Responds to Today's Speech by Governor Tim Pawlenty

St. Paul, Minnesota -- Twila Brase, president of Citizens’ Council on Health Care, provides the following comments-pro and con-to points made by Governor Tim Pawlenty in his speech at the Midwest States Health Reform Summit in Minneapolis. The forum focused on bringing the 2006 Massachusetts universal coverage law and in particular, its controversial health insurance mandate, to Minnesota.

Governor: We must chart a path toward universal coverage.
CCHC: Universal coverage is a government-directed initiative, not a consumer-driven initiative. The discussion should not be about coverage. Coverage is not care. Many people with insurance coverage, including the privately and publicly insured in our country and the entitled in other countries, fight to receive care every day. Health plans and governments use restrictions, bureaucracy, and control of dollars to ration patient access to care.

Governor: I think we should move to universal coverage. We need to move in steps. We've been studying diligently the Massachusetts model. We need to start with covering all kids. That's the logical next step to universal coverage in Minnesota.
CCHC: A health insurance mandate is a boon for insurers, a a bad idea for citizens, and a big step to government-run health care. A mandate is also unconstitutional. Government forces citizens to transfer their hard-earned incomes to the pockets of health plans. In addition, a mandate will not create universal coverage. As the Governor himself said, Minnesota requires car insurance, yet 17% of the public has not complied with the law.

Governor: Television advertising for pharmaceuticals creates consumer-driven appetites and should be limited if not temporarily suspended.
CCHC: Government should not limit citizen access to information on medical treatments. This is a patient protection issue. Health plans and government agencies are building data monitoring systems to direct and control the practice of medicine. If drug and medical device companies are not allowed to advertise, how will citizens and patients ever learn about treatments governments and health plans do not want doctors to tell them about?

Governor: We need to get to the point where we don't need to be a Ph.D to figure out your medical bills.
CCHC: Agreed!

Governor: We need to incentivize or require everybody to go to e-prescriptions.
CCHC: Computerization is not problem-free. Several studies report that electronic prescribing increases medical errors. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) added twenty-two new medical errors.

Governor: We need to pay doctors according to how well they meet recognized standards of care. We won't use a stick approach. We'll use a carrot approach. We'll reward doctors who meet the standards. This system is only going to get more robust.
CCHC: We disagree. This is a big government stick approach. Anyone who is not “rewarded” is penalized. They get a stick. There are no carrots, and increasing robust means increasingly punitive. This approach also permits government to intrude in private medical records and interfere with private medical decisions.

Governor: The role of the HMOs is called into question. Are they just banks? Are they just underwriters of risk? Or are they true partners. What is the health value of what they do? If they are just glorified aggregators of risk that don't meaningfully improve health, we need to chart a different future.
CCHC: We concur. We have long said that HMOs are banks that don't have to give the money back. In fact, they are allowed to write their own definitions of “medical necessity” and deny care based on those definitions. It's time for citizens to “bank” their own dollars, protect their assets, and keep the dollars they need to get the health care they want.

Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President
Phone: 651-646-8935 (office)