The cost of insurance in the state keeps going up, and the would-be president touts his reforms of a state employee health program that controlled premiums by giving price breaks to those who bought the cheapest plan—presumably those that don’t cover much. Health care “needs to look more like a cash bar than an open bar,” he says. The cute phrase packs a lot of meaning for the direction his health proposals might go. Consumers who want better insurance—you know, the comprehensive kind that is rapidly joining the dinosaurs—will have to pay for it themselves. Is the governor’s health care strategy one that reduces health care costs by shifting them to those who get sick without dealing with the root causes of the problem? It would be good for the paper to articulate that in its next piece on Pawlenty’s health program.

The individual mandate was a free market approach to reform. Advocates and politicians embraced it when it was clear that the alternatives—government-provided insurance a la single payer and an employer mandate requiring all employers to cover their workers—weren’t going to fly for obvious reasons which we don’t have to rehash in this post. Now, it seems, there is yet another way with the ex-Minnesota governor leading the way. Between the StarTribune and Minnesota Public Radio, we are learning a lot about the candidate’s health care thinking.

PS: A Pawlenty spokesman told Politico it took strong exception to the StarTribune story. Alex Conant said that the governor rejected individual mandates every time they were proposed in the state. As for the insurance exchanges, he said a state study showed they didn’t work. Boy, if that’s the case, health reform is headed for real trouble.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.