Bargaining chip

“Dismayed” is the best, and perhaps the politest, word that comes to mind in response to the executive order issued Tuesday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, barring state officials from applying for any discretionary federal health care reform funds.

It’s not exactly clear what the true impact will be. The assessment, via MinnPost, seems to be that the governor’s move could be one of two things: seriously damaging, or little more than political grandstanding.

Regardless of how you view it, though, Minnesotans are right to feel disappointed – angry, even – that health care is under siege once again from the politically powerful. Yesterday the Minnesota Medical Association, the Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Council of Health Plans issued a joint statement voicing the opinion that “the governor’s decision just doesn’t make sense for Minnesotans.” The Star Tribune of Minneapolis joined the chorus today with an editorial and a handful of letters to the editor.

Few would argue that health care costs are growing at a rate that’s unsustainable, or that something needs to be done for the uninsured. But if the governor’s order is what passes for a solution, it’s hard to see how it’s going to help Minnesota move forward.

What’s most dismaying of all is how health care has been co-opted into a stack of poker chips, something to be bargained back and forth to score points for oneself and deliver smackdowns to one’s opponents.

It is unseemly and inappropriate.

You can’t help wondering what uninsured, lower-income Minnesotans think as they sit on the sidelines watching the gamesmanship – not that anyone has ever bothered to ask them. Nor has anyone asked Minnesota’s health care professionals, who on a daily basis are called upon to try to fix the consequences of living without access to affordable health care.

A game of Texas hold ’em. Is that all the value that health care holds?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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