As the national health-care debate developed last year, Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty offered his two cents repeatedly and with enthusiasm. His instructions were always the same: Follow Minnesota's example.
Since Pawlenty's name first popped up on Sen. John McCain's short list for vice president in 2008, he has become an increasingly regular figure in the national spotlight. Today, Pawlenty completes his second and final term as governor—and his wide open schedule will open the door even wider to speculation about whether he will run for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination.
As a frequent guest on national talk shows and vice chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, Pawlenty has tried to articulate a brand of "Sam's Club" conservatism—promoting smaller government, lower taxes and the free market. But it has been his market-based policy-making, including in the arena of health-care reform, that truly illustrates his approach to governance.
Pawlenty began with modest reforms. Following his 2002 election, he created the Governor's Health Cabinet to bring together the heads of state agencies responsible for health care purchasing, regulation and delivery. He spearheaded the Smart Buy Alliance, a public-private partnership which allows employers and groups to buy health insurance for their employees and members and sets uniform performance standards and reporting requirements. And the administration helped launch Minnesota Health Info, an online clearinghouse of health information where consumers can learn he cost of the 100 most common procedures. Pawlenty also signed into law the Flexible Benefit Plan which allows employers to eliminate mandates they deem unnecessary in the insurance plans they offer.