Activists from TakeAction Minnesota stood outside of the WCCO Radio State Fair booth Friday during Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s live radio broadcast, handing out “health insurance rate increases” on a stick in protest of the governor’s recent refusal to sign off on federal money to review insurance rates.
Forty-five states recently qualified for $1 million each from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The dollars were part of a insurance rate review program and required each state to sign off before they could use the funds. Pawlenty, who is weighing a run for president in 2012 and has been openly critical of federal spending, refused to sign for the cash.
“It’s a gift to the health insurers,” TakeAction spokeswoman Greta Bergstrom said. “These rates increase year after year, and we just want to know why he would turn down money that would look into that.”
Bergstrom said they were also protesting his hesitation to sign off on federal Medicaid expansion stimulus dollars. Pawlenty has until Sept. 24 to sign off on $263 million of so-called FMAP funds that lawmakers had hoped would come during the session to help solve the budget deficit.
Three TakeAction activists also dressed in black suits, posing as representatives of the health care industry. They held out a card for Pawlenty that thanked him for “keeping the public in the dark about…health insurance rate increases.”
In a strange moment, Pawlenty read the card out loud on the radio, but brushed it off and didn’t comment. Some in the crowd engaged with the protesters. Most were unaware that Pawlenty denied the federal dollars.
“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” one woman said. “It’s just a nice day and I want to enjoy it. I don’t know if this is the best place to get their message across.”