COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Mike Huckabee believes that some of the ideals of Obamacare — such as getting the uninsured insured — are noble.
But, unfortunately, the law is lacking, he says, in one particularly important concept: common sense.
“The reason Obamacare was never designed to work is because it was (written) by people who have not a clue as to what they were doing to the industry and health care in this country,” Huckabee said in his keynote speech Tuesday at the 2014 Benefits Selling Expo.
Common sense isn’t reflected in the 37 changes the administration has made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since it passed. Common sense isn’t having premiums soar for those who can’t afford it. Common sense doesn’t involve passing a health care law that doesn’t have the support of doctors. And common sense isn’t having the federal government be in control of something it knows nothing about.
“I felt from the very beginning that Obamacare was the wrong approach — not because I’m a Republican but because I was a governor for 10.5 years,” he said.
The former Arkansas governor and current Fox News host believes government works best on a state level — especially in insurance, where states set up the insurance commissioner, the insurance commission and, of course, understand the regulatory environment for insurance.
Huckabee said he particularly feels for Americans who struggle with chronic health issues and, as a result, a constant flood of too-high health bills.
“We could have done things about the chronically uninsured and we should have,” he said. “People are in a world of hurt, through no fault of their own, faced with extraordinarily medical expenses — most of us would accept we have a collective opportunity (to help). In a country like ours, what makes us unique is we don’t mind helping neighbors.”
What he thinks should be done to help that group is to put them in their own special subsidized group. The market should be split into a normal risk and an extraordinary-risk pools, he said. Those paying “extraordinary” bills would be helped because of the subsidies, and the normal risk people would be helped because they aren’t stuck paying for other consumers’ high premiums.
Though there is the responsibility to help, he stressed that no one should get insurance, or benefits, for free.
“The biggest mistake is when you give people benefits for which they have no investment in whatsoever,” Huckabee said, to a clapping audience. “You have to apply common sense.”
Another part of the law that lacks common sense is to try to get young adults enrolled in insurance, but then tell them they can stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26. That, he said, “knocks the legs from a big part of the market.”
There is also the continued problem that young people struggle with rationalizing buying insurance, often believing they are too healthy or young or would simply rather spend their money on something else.
And little — or no — doctor support isn’t helping the cause, either. After talking to roughly 200 family doctors over the years about PPACA, Huckabee anticipates in five years “your basic family physicians will either be in concierge medicine or ‘God help you medicine.’”
Without changes to the law, Huckabee said PPACA is an “unsustainable animal that will eat us alive.”
But he’s still optimistic that things can change for the better. For example, he said, “Republicans have put a lot of ideas out there but the problem is they are just not under one umbrella.” Once they work together to submit ideas, they could make more headway.
Huckabee told brokers in the audience that he sympathizes with them for being in a “difficult position” because of PPACA.
But, at the same time, they have a unique business opportunity, he said.
“You may be in a different position than doctors, hospitals and others who are taking a direct frontal hit from Obamacare,” Huckabee said. “You’ll have to market creatively and differently but I’d like to think in many ways you are in a unique opportunity moment. You may have some of the best opportunities to know what (products) consumers need and want as opposed to what the government thinks they want and makes them pay for.”