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Pawlenty Seeks To Stop Health Law As He Eyes Presidency

If there was any doubt that protesting on the new health law was good politics for Republican candidates, it evaporated with the midterm election results.

So, it’s no surprise that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely GOP contender for the White House in 2012, publicly opposed the law again this week, this time with a preliminary filing supporting a challenge to the overhaul in a Florida court. Reporters speculated  that it may be the opening salvo in his presidential campaign. He told CNN recently that health law opposition  would be part of the stump if he runs.
Pawlenty’s filing sure reads like politics: The health overhaul, lawyers for Pawlenty, wrote, “is so mammoth, its provisions are so complex, and its passage was so irregular that the federal attorneys who have spent the past eight months defending it cannot even clearly identify its length.”

 Pawlenty has put his objections on the record before, too. In August, he barred Minnesota agencies from applying for discretionary health law grants without his express permission in an executive order that state Democrats said read like political posturing for his potential 2012 bid.

Last month, we asked the governor’s office and state health officials for some documents that would show the impact of the order. Here’s what we found.

A list of Affordable Care Act-related grants, provided by health officials, sheds light on the true scope of Pawlenty’s restrictions. And, from the look of it, the impact is pretty marginal considering the vast sums of money made available by the health law.

The window has closed for at least a couple of health-overhaul related grants. For instance, the state passed on an up-to-$30-million grant to fund a “health insurance consumer information” program that was due on Sept. 10, according to the chart.

But, deadlines for most of the grants either elapsed before Pawlenty’s Aug. 31 order or will remain open until after his term ends in a few weeks. States had to go after money to review insurers’ premium hikes by July 7, for instance, and Minnesota did not. And, while Minnesota has skipped a grant considered critical to the overhaul’s success — for planning state-run health insurance exchanges — the money will remain available until next March.

It will be up to the next governor to pursue – or not pursue – that money.The state’s gubernatorial election hasn’t yet been decided,  but Democrat Mark Dayton leads current counts.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the documents we got from Minnesota’s government is the application form  agencies must use to ask Pawlenty’s permission to seek overhaul cash. The form asks agencies to show how funding “is consistent with the Governor’s health care reform goals and principles.” It also asks would-be applicants to list “potential supporters” and “potential opponents” of grant programs.

This is one of KHN’s “Short Takes” – brief items in the news. For the latest from KHN, check out our News Section.

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