LEBANON, N.H. (AP) — Likely presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty urged a roomful of skeptical doctors Friday to be leaders rather than be dragged into what he sees as the future of health care — giving consumers more information and choices and rewarding providers for quality over volume.

The former Minnesota governor was the latest politician to participate in the Health Policy Grand Rounds program that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has organized for its staff during the past two presidential campaign cycles. Using Medicare and Medicaid as examples, he criticized the notion that government-run health care will produce efficiency and said the answer lies in empowering consumers.

“I don’t like movements toward big government bureaucracies, particularly when we see the track record of the two we have,” said Pawlenty, a Republican. “They’re well-intentioned, but inevitably they become slow-moving, lacking in entrepreneurial qualities, lacking in flexibility, financially quite inefficient and ultimately insolvent. We need a different model.”

He described his state’s efforts to give financial bonuses to providers who meet quality and cost benchmarks for patients with certain chronic diseases, which he acknowledged was easier to do in Minnesota where the world-renowned Mayo Clinic sets the standard.

When an audience member asked him who would pay for the research needed to determine those benchmarks elsewhere, Pawlenty didn’t answer directly but said the medical profession should take the lead in developing such standards.

“The best thing we can do is get the medical profession itself to be the curators and the caretakers and the custodians of those standards. I don’t think you want the politicians to do it for sure,” he said. “But it’s gonna happen. This toothpaste is out of the tube. … I would just encourage you to get out in the lead on that and not be dragged to it.”

Several hospital staffers, including former U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Jay Buckey, took issue with Pawlenty’s criticism of Medicare. Buckey, a Democrat, faulted Pawlenty for mentioning the growing cost of Medicare without pointing out that the program covers the sickest population, and one that is growing. And he pointed out that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law calls for slowing the growth of Medicare spending.

Asked if he supports that aspect of the law, Pawlenty said Obama hasn’t specified where the cuts will come.

“I frankly don’t believe they’re going to materialize in the real world,” he said.

Dr. Ken Dolkart, who specializes in geriatric medicine, referred to a 2007 survey of 514 New Hampshire doctors in which 81 percent said they favor a single-payer health care system. Only one-third agreed that the free market system was the best way to create a high-quality, affordable and accessible system.

“Your comment about the wisdom of the marketplace and of the individual consumer applies to Fords and Cadillacs and lots of products,” but not health care decisions, he said.

Pawlenty, who is expected to soon announce whether he is running for president, was wrapping up a two-day trip to New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s earliest presidential primary and is seeing increased candidate traffic this month.

Health care also was a focus when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to Republicans last week in northern New Hampshire, with Romney contrasting the health care overhaul he signed into law as governor with Obama’s law.

Asked by reporters to give his opinion on the Massachusetts law, Pawlenty demurred, saying at most “I just took a different approach.”

“You guys just can’t let this go,” he scolded reporters.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. ThomasD says:

    Don’t ask T-Paw anything tricky or you’ll get fibs and dibs.

    Just stick with yes – no. Do not allow a maybe. Yes-No

  2. helper says:

    Why is this fool wasting his time? He’s a pansy, a wimp, a flake, a shallow man…

  3. Jon says:

    Who cares. He isn’t our governor any more and hasn’t announced he is running for president so why keep posting stories about him?

  4. Clint says make my day says:

    Jon right – who cares? So take a cue from that staff and cover things that are relevant to us.
    I like him out there a bit as he takes some of the media away from the TrulyCrazyWitch. When she announces she’s running I say we all drink her special kool aid and lay back and watch the stars explode in the sky. lol 😉

  5. MN voter says:

    T Paw keeps coming in last in every poll, straw poll and recognition measure. Typical of his time as governor – thought he was more important than he really was.

  6. bubba136 says:

    Presidential hopefull ???? What a joke, Hahaaaaaaaa hope in one hand and s,oh never mind. LOL

  7. solly says:

    The Minnesota news media, especially the Twin Cities television outlets and newspapers, give much attention to Pawlenty, as if they are his campaign people. If Michele Bachmann can outshine him, it indicates how irrelevant he is.

    1. Bachmann? No. says:

      The only reason Bachmann outshine’s him is because of her controversial comments. Comments that bring in $ and she will draw this out for as long as she can. As far as a contender to actually win, Pawlenty beats Bachmann hands down.

  8. JRay says:

    T Paw, A legend in his own mind!

  9. Tom says:

    I like how that audience member asks him how research would be paid for and he didn’t want too answer. He wants things but he doesn’t want too pay for them.

    I wonder if someone forgot too tell him that he wasnt going into a conservative crowd where he would have asked “easier” questions?

  10. MN Cares says:

    Notice to Doctors, T-Paw is lost, return him to Wisconsin.
    Thank You

  11. Common Sense up North says:

    When they said the doctors were skeptical, I thought they were giving him a brain scan and instead, found that he didn’t have a brain in his head.

  12. Murph says:

    Pawlentycould say that he is sorry that the GOP has assurred that many thousands of workers who still have health insurance will be forced to drop it or starve or become homeless or both! He could tell that the obvious turn towards slave labor will be very good for about 2% of them.The ones who will accept low wages to work in the hospitals and clinics outside of big cities that will serve the 2% of Americans who are left with money enough to have an operation or steady health care! Unfortunately even Glenn Beck couldn’t seduce them into believing that nonsense.The good news is that nobody will be congregating in waiting rooms coughing and spreading viruses and germs to healthy people either.No, we will just step over the immaciated corpses on our way to our hopelessly underpaying jobs.That’s the plan and it’s one that Terrible Timmy loves all to pieces! He violated the MN Constitution to help get it started!

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