Durenberger slams Pawlenty over health care repeal

It’s no longer surprising when former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger breaks with Republican orthodoxy. In 2008, he quietly supported Barack Obama for president. This year he very publicly supported his long-time staffer (and IP nominee) Tom Horner for governor. And, in commentaries that he publishes sporadically, he has long-since embraced the Obama health care bill, once calling it not perfect but “the best we can do as a nation…right now.” He deemed it “reasonable, responsible — and Republican — even though it passed with only Democratic votes.”

Now that Tim Pawlenty has embraced the repeal of Obamacare as one of the central tenets of his undeclared presidential campaign, Durenberger accuses  the governor of undermining Minnesota’s reputation as an important national laboratory for health care reforms. Durenberger’s calls Pawlenty’s current repeal-Obamacare position “appalling” and based on “outright bull.”

Here’s the excerpt, from the latest edition of the always lively and candid occasional series “Commentary from Dave Durenberger”:

Or so many people involved in health system and health policy change have long believed. As a member of the Senate, I was always told my Minnesota health reform ideas were great. For Minnesotans. But they wouldn’t translate nationally.  Minnesota has been a national leader in expanding coverage to nearly all residents (although there has been a lot of slippage the 8 years of the Pawlenty administration). We are leaders in care quality and safety initiatives and applying health plan and delivery system cooperation to bending the cost curve. In employer involvement in fostering employee choice, health management, and care coordination systems. In leadership in dealing with mental and behavioral health and long-term care. And in dealing with reducing the consequences of poor health on medical costs.

Listening to our Governor Tim Pawlenty run for president against this kind of health system and policy is appalling. As he said Sunday on national cable TV:  ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country….It is a top down, command and control, bureaucratically run entitlement program.’ ‘I like people being in charge of their decisions.’ This is outright bull. Unworthy of the governor of a state that has been working hard to create many of the care system and access innovations that the ACA will help to fund with federal dollars as an example to the rest of the country.  All on his watch. Much with prodding from the DFL legislature and from health provider groups in Minnesota who, by the way, endorsed ‘anyone but the Pawlenty heir’ for governor last month.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/17/2010 - 09:21 am.

    There was a time when Democrats and Republicans both cared about the well being of the average citizens of the state of Minnesota (and the nation) but often disagreed about the best ways to foster that well being. Dave Durenburger is a holdover from those days.

    Today’s Republicans, however, seem to care little (if at all) for the average citizen. Their only concern is for “I, me, mine” (and the people most like me – or those as rich as I hope to be).

    Since the media has been bought by a subgroup of wealthy people and major news personalities are MORE than willing to protect the interests of their owners in order to protect their own six- and seven-figure salaries, our current crop of Republicans know that they can spin whatever they do in ways the distract and deceive the general public from understanding that their REAL agenda is to strip the middle class of its income, its assets, its property, and any chance it’s (former) members ever had of a comfortable retirement.

    King Timmy’s leash has long been held by those same extremely wealthy interests. His position on health care just indicates their desire to protect and maintain the most expensive and profitable system of health care on the face of the planet, a position the system itself maintains with extremely high premiums for health insurance, massive overhead costs, the highest prescription drug prices on the planet, and rejection or recision of coverage for “sick” people by any and all means necessary.

    Indeed, in the eyes of these people caring for their less fortunate brothers and sisters in the “baby boom” generation as they age is going to be far too expensive to be tolerated. Anyone who talks about “reducing health care costs” as the baby boomers reach retirement age is either lying through their teeth, or expecting to make health care unavailable for the baby boomers as they age. This means you and me, folks.

    Those who complained most loudly about “government death panels” are not actually opposed to such things, they just want YOUR death panel be an insurance company bureaucrat working in a small cubicle somewhere, who’s offered incentives to cancel your coverage if you start to need it too much – a situation where you’ll have no recourse except to sue (which, of course they’re trying to outlaw as well).

    As Rep. Grayson so eloquently (and accurately) said, the plan for baby boomer health care being offered by King Timmy and his keepers simply means that, if the average citizen gets sick, they’d best “Die quickly,” because they won’t be able to afford to do anything else and their insurance won’t cover them, no matter what the policy says.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/17/2010 - 10:26 am.

    The governor is a finger-in-the-wind politician. One example his brief attachment to global warming when those winds were blowing strong among the general electorate. Now he’s Mr. Anti-Obamacare. His only claim to GOP fame is “no new taxes.” Surely Republicans can do better than Pawlenty, whose lack of inspirational leadership is matched only by his lack of proposing any compelling conservative public policy the last eight years.

  3. Submitted by nick gorski on 11/17/2010 - 10:40 am.

    Greg – I couldn’t have said it better myself – in fact, I know I couldn’t have!

  4. Submitted by Craig Westover on 11/17/2010 - 11:10 am.

    Interesting that Durenburger uses the word “innovation” to talk about making changes to the health care system that would,effectively, curtail innovative medical procedures.

    I wrote a piece for the PiPress http://mnfmi.org/2009/08/28/health-care-life-and-death-and-substance/ about the kind of life and death decisions a government bureaucrat would have to make regarding extremely low birth weight (less than 2.2 lbs) babies. Should the public health plan allow spending billions of tax dollars on technology and treatment attempting to save low-birth-weight infants when that practice has a high probability of complications yielding a relatively low survival rate with a high probability of ongoing medical and other expenses associated with survival?

    The point often overlooked is that innovations developed to save low birth babies, even when they fail, are now routine procedures saving the lives of babies weighing under 5.5 lbs that once had a very low probability of survival. Innovation is seldom cost effective at first use.

    “Innovation” is about advancing actual medical procedures, medications and care, not tweaking the health care system to provide more health care coverage; coverage is not care.

  5. Submitted by DeeAnn Christensen on 11/17/2010 - 12:27 pm.

    Hmmmm! “Obamacare” Would that mean that Social Security would be more appropriately recognized as: FDRCare? or Medicare might best be recognized as: LBJCare?

  6. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 11/17/2010 - 01:01 pm.

    Bravo Greg! I couldn’t have said it better either. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put together a well thought out and succint argument.

  7. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/17/2010 - 05:21 pm.


    I think I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I entirely buy it. The new health care reforms are hardly drastic enough to broadly “curtail innovative medical procedures” as you suggest — remember, we’re truly talking about incremental improvements in access within existing frameworks, not a radical re-design. Which is precisely why the continued blanket demonization by Mr. Pawlenty and others is so strange and off-putting to moderates like Mr. Durenberger, who are more interested in taking steps forward rather than political gamesmanship.

    I don’t doubt that there are ways to further improve health care, and some of those ideas will certainly be “free market” in nature. Let’s hear about those from Mr. Pawlenty for a change, rather than this “repeal-at-all-costs” battle cry. He’s focused solely on regressive talk in regards to perhaps the most progressive, innovative, and forward-moving sector of our society.

  8. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/17/2010 - 05:30 pm.

    That said, I don’t necessarily condone the tone or content of Greg above in comment #1. Modern Republicans aren’t selfish death merchants, they simply have their own set of interests and goals for health care that are different than those of modern Democrats. However, you couldn’t hardly tell that from the last two years — the Republican zero-bargaining approach raised their profile as the minority party in Congress, but it’s not particularly pleasant to reasonable observers (nor is it appropriate as they regain their numbers again). With the elections over and Republican gains made, it’s past time for a shift in tone, even for a 2012 auditioner like Mr. Pawlenty.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/17/2010 - 10:25 pm.

    From the perspective of removing market distortions, and many other things which would be helpful to businesses and the economy in general, I think the best thing we could do here would be decoupling health insurance from one’s employment. Right now it’s just one more anchor keeping workers in place and reducing labor market flexibility. But, obviously, I don’t need to begin enumerating all the reasons why such a decoupling is not even anywhere on the horizon.

    We should remove the disconnect between medical care and cost experienced by individual Americans. Until Americans realize how much medical care actually costs you will never see the cost of care decrease.

  10. Submitted by William Pappas on 11/20/2010 - 07:04 am.

    Well said, Greg. I’d like to reitterate that the only “death panels” in existence now are the insurance bureaucrats making decisions on your coverage as you encounter life threatening health crisis. They are of course very biased toward denying you coverage any way possible to increase profit. It’s the foundation of health insurance for profit. Why the democrats couldn’t make that point in the health insrance reform debate is beyond me. Furthermore the idea that we must reject insurance reform (Obamacare?) because it impinges on our freedom and free enterprise system is one big joke and lie. None of us have the freedom to choose insurance policies, change to another one, or even make intelligent choices about such policies. That is not possible now. The new health reforms make a free market choice of insurance plans much more attainable. Why democrats couldn’t drive this point more forcefully is evidence of those corporate accountable media refusing to advance the discussion in any honest and meaninful way. Bottom line is any republican health insurance reform will make it more expensive, more obtuse, less available to everyone and less likely to be a free choice and more likely to be a forced decision based on inability to change insurers. Pawlenty should be called out on his misleading rhetoric by every ethical journalist in the country. The fact that he isn’t lends a false mantel of legitimacy on his actions. That is a scary indicment of the state of our media.

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