Mike Huckabee on Health Care
Republican AR Governor
The kind of change we need isn't merely a programmatic switch, but a cultural change, one that will take a generation to accomplish, not just an election cycle. And here we run up against one of the dirty little secrets of politics. People who run for office like to champion issues that they can address during their term of office.
In my own lifetime, I have witnessed at least four major cultural changes: the campaign against littering; the rise of the use of seatbelts; the ban on indoor smoking; and the raised awareness of drunk driving. These contain some important lessons in how to bring about really big cultural change of the kind we need to transform healthcare in this country.
A: I signed a similar bill in my state which said that we are not banning smoking, we are protecting clean air in the workplace. I still believe that there is a fundamental right that people have to do damage to themselves, but they do not have a right to do damage to others in a workplace.
Q: But you would sign a federal law?
A: If it were about a clean air workplace, not about banning smoking. Because the point is, and I know it may sound trivial, but it’s important to me philosophically that you’re not telling an individual what he or she can’t do, you’re saying what you cannot do is to infringe upon the right of another to have clean air.
A: I didn’t say that we should quarantine. I said it was the first time in public health protocols that when we had an infectious disease & we didn’t really know just how extensive it could be, that we didn’t isolate the carrier. Now, the headlines started saying that I called for quarantines, which I did not. I had simply made the point that in the late ‘80s, when we didn’t know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols that we would have acted--as we have recently, for example, with avian flu--I spent months as a governor dealing with a pandemic plan that we were looking at which called for isolating carriers if they contracted that disease. I’m not going to recant. Would I say it a little differently today? Sure, in light of 15 years of additional knowledge, I would.
A: Of those 47 million, one-third don’t have it because they are self-insured. Another one-third don’t have it because they think they’re healthy and invincible. There is one-third that don’t have it because they can’t afford it. And then there are a lot of people who have insurance, but they’re underinsured.
What we need to be doing is putting the real focus on preventing the illness in the first place. It’s the difference between either putting an ambulance at the bottom of the hill or building a fence at the top. We can afford universal coverage, but not until and not even close until we first have health, rather than just focus on health coverage. Let me say the last thing we need to do is to believe that Michael Moore’s idea is good and we can all go to Cuba and get health care. I don’t mind shipping him down there, but the rest of us I’d like to get our care here.
We asked Huckabee’s campaign how he knew that 1/3 thought they were “invincible,” but we’ve received no response. We can find no studies that support the “invincibility” theory. [The closest is that] about 3 million people are uninsured because they decline available workplace health insurance.
Huckabee also errs in claiming that only 1/3 can’t afford insurance. About 2/3 of the uninsured are considered low-income families. Huckabee would be correct to say that 1/3 of the nonelderly uninsured are living below the poverty level.
Huckabee’s claim that 1/3 of the uninsured are self-insured is a meaningless statement. In fact, anyone without health insurance must rely on their own resources to pay medical bills. That’s what being self-insured means.
The reality is it’s a health crisis, and I would further say that one of the challenges we face is that a lot of the Democrats want to turn it over to the government, while the Republicans want to turn it over completely to the private insurance companies.
I think the better idea is to turn it over to each individual consumer and let him or her make that choice. I trust me a lot more than I trust government or a lot more than I trust the insurance companies.
A: The president was caught in a tough political battle. Unfortunately, the issue wasn’t about children; the issue was about political posture. Many of the kids who would be covered under the expanded SCHIP are people who already have insurance. If I were president, I would never let that get to the point where that’s the only option you have.
Q: But if it got there, would you have vetoed the bill?
A: I’m not absolutely certain that that’s going to be the right way. There’s a real problem in the health care issue where Democrats say they want the government to control it. Some Republicans say, we want private insurance or businesses to control it. The real answer is: let individuals control their own, and let them own it. That’s the real need, because I don’t trust government and I don’t trust the insurance companies. I trust me with my health care.
A: The first problem with our current health care system is that it’s upside down. It focuses on intervention. We wait until people are catastrophically ill, and then we spend enormous amounts of money trying to fix them. We need to be putting the money on the preventive side. Prevention is a lot less expensive than is intervention. The second thing, there has to be ownership of the individual consumer. As long as the government, the employer, as long as the doctor is in charge of your health care, and you have no idea what it costs, and you have no idea what they’re doing, and you don’t control it, we’re never going to get the system fixed. And the third thing that has to happen is that we have portable medical records. And the policies that we can put in place have to start with individuals buying in, not only on insurance, but buying in on health, their own personal, to start with.
A: I’d like to side with the people of America who really are looking for a lot better action than they’re getting out of their president or Congress. You know, if you want to know how to fix it, I’ve got a solution. Either give every American the same kind of health care that Congress has, or make Congress have the same kind of health care that every American has. They’ll get it fixed. We really have an incredible problem because our system is upside-down. It focuses on intervention at the catastrophic level of disease rather than really focusing on prevention. So we’ve got a system that, no matter how much money we pour into it, we’re not going to fix it, until we begin to address the fact that this country has put its focus not on wellness, not on health, but on sickness.
A: The Republicans want to win the war in Iraq; the Democrats just want to get out. That’s the big difference on Iraq. The 2nd difference I see is that the Democrats really want the government to be in charge of things like health care. They want them to be more responsible for choices about our doctors. And I think Republicans still want every individual consumer to be making those very critical decisions about “Who is my doctor and what treatment I’m going to get and where am I going to get it.”
Q: So you don’t accept the notion that Ralph Nader would suggest that there really is no significance difference between Democrats and Republicans?
A: Well, somebody would have had to have slept through both debates to think that there are no differences. There are clear differences. The good news is the people of America will have a contrast. And both sides are legitimately trying to talk about some issues.
As I prepared to sign the bill, I found myself reaching for a crayon and probably made history by being the first to sign a bill with a crayon. The crayon became one of the symbols of the plan.
The ARKids First program has been successful in insuring more than 60,000 children. Many actually welcomed the small co-payment that was required since it gave them a sense of responsibility and a feeling of not being on welfare.
I am convinced it is less expensive to prevent a problem than it is to try and fix it once it has grown into something much larger. The value of ARKids First will be easier to see as children grow up not having missed school because of chronic illness. Is it costly? It is not as costly as having large numbers of sick children.
Most government grants are given to research for treatment of disease and to find ways to aggressively treat illness. Preventive medicine, until recently, was almost considered a form of quackery.
One of the main reasons most of us yearn to get fit but never do is because we fail to STOP PROCRASTINATING. It is simply easier to plan on health and fitness but never to do it, by marking our intentions with a definite date in the future that we never seem to keep:
As you can imagine, there is an extraordinary level of satisfaction from having people notice the improved appearance of personal fitness. There’s not a day that goes by in which I’m not approached by someone who says, “You look amazing.”
The former head football coach of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks said, “Governor, I found years ago that nothing ever tastes as good as it feels to be thin.” How true that is! Or, as I would put it, “Nothing tastes as good as it feels to be healthy.”
So STOP number one on the road to forever fitness is: STOP PROCRASTINATING--DO IT NOW!
And that means the entire system starts working on health and wellness, because 80% of the $2 trillion that we spend on health care goes to chronic disease. We could prevent it or we could cure it, but we don’t. So it’s not an issue of there’s not enough money to cover people.
But if a real health care system exists, it has three components: It has affordability, it has quality, and it has accessibility.
These kids fell into an unfair trap. They were the children of parents who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to afford quality private health insurance plans. These were children whose chronic illnesses were often going untreated.
Since its conception in 1997, the ARKids First program has been incredibly successful in insuring more than 60,000 children.
The real value of ARKids First will not be seen immediately, but I’m convinced it’s less expensive to prevent a problem than it is to try to fix it once it has grown into something much larger.
The Governors support efforts designed to enable small employers to join together to participate more effectively in the health insurance market. In fact, Governors have taken the lead in facilitating the development of such partnerships and alliances. However, these partnerships must be carefully structured and regulated by state agencies in order to protect consumers and small businesses from fraud and abuse and underinsurance. NGA opposes attempts to expand federal authority under ERISA. The Governors have identified the prevention of such federal legislation in the 107th Congress as a top legislative priority.
States have the primary responsibility for health insurance regulation. Across the nation, Governors are working to protect consumers and patients and to properly regulate the complicated health insurance industry.
As you know, preserving and protecting the state tobacco settlement funds is the nation’s Governors’ highest priority. We strongly urge you to reach final agreement and pass the conference report on the emergency supplemental appropriations bill soon, and to retain the Senate provision that protects our settlement funds from federal seizure.
Many of our state legislatures are currently in session, and some have already completed work on their budgets. Therefore, it is critical that conferees reach agreement quickly on this issue. Governors are unified in their commitment to ensuring that the funds remain in the states and that there be no restrictions on states’ ability to tailor spending to meet the needs of their citizens.
We offer our strongest support for conferees to recede to the Senate version of the bill containing the Hutchison/Graham bipartisan tobacco recoupment protection legislation.
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