I have two items from my latest reading of Tim Pawlenty's Courage to Stand.
Pawlenty talks about his conflict with the bus drivers union. I talked
some about this in my last post on this book, for I quoted Pawlenty's
lament that there were people who had worked only fifteen years as
public bus drivers yet were receiving a lifetime of health insurance on
account of that job, thereby costing the state of Minnesota a lot of
money. In my latest reading, Pawlenty discusses the union's strike that
took place when Pawlenty was challenging that particular policy.
Fortunately, Pawlenty and the union reached an agreement: lifetime
health insurance would not be granted to newly-hired bus drivers.
How did Pawlenty and the union get to the bargaining table? You'd
think that the union would have all the power, since a necessary service
was going on strike, and it could stay on strike unless the union's
demands were met. But that's not exactly what happened. Why not,
according to Pawlenty? First of all, people in the Twin Cities
found creative ways to work around the problem of an absent bus service
so they could get to work, and that eased the union's stranglehold.
Second, when Pawlenty told voters in Minnesota that people were getting
lifetime health insurance after only working for fifteen years, many
voters thought that was outrageous and thus sided with Pawlenty. Third,
Pawlenty states that bus drivers were eager to get back to work after a
month of not working, and so they were pressuring union leaders to
I am against depriving public-sector unions of all of
their power to bargain collectively. At the same time, I'm against
unions strangling a location until all of its demands are met,
especially if those demands cost the taxpayers a lot of money. I hope there's a way for negotiations with public-sector unions to be true negotiations----with give-and-take.
I did not care for something that Pawlenty said about health care. On
page 177, Pawlenty says that the third-payer system makes the health
care system like an open bar, and that people "consume goods and
services without knowing or caring about price or quality", since
somebody else is paying the bill. But many people are not
getting their health care cheaply or for free, for they have to pay high
premiums, or high copays or deductibles. Then there are cases in which
health insurance companies choose not to cover certain operations.
People who receive Medicaid may get health care for free, but this is
because they cannot afford health insurance. I wish that Pawlenty were more sensitive to these issues.
does talk about his state's successful attempts to keep premium
increases "relatively small or flat for five years" for state
employees. Essentially, they are given a choice: they pay less if they
go with a "higher-quality, more efficient provider", and more if they
choose a "costly alternative". I'm interested in learning about
what this entails, for why would anyone choose a costly health
insurance package over one that is high-quality and more efficient? My
hunch is that she'd do so because the costlier package covers more,
whereas the "higher-quality, more efficient provider" is more stingy.
That's just my hunch, though.