Huckabee on health care: ‘I’m not sure the Republicans are doing a much better job’

Larry McCormack

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their closely-guarded bill to overhaul American health care policy. Kyleah Starling, Holly Fletcher/USA Today Network — Tennessee

As details of the Senate’s proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act were revealed Thursday morning, TV personality and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in on his own vision for a preventative health care system during remarks in Nashville.

“It is not a health care problem we face, it is an overwhelming health issue,” Huckabee said during a keynote address to the National Health Investors, Inc.

He did not discuss the specifics of the new proposal, but said that the ACA and the proposed ACHA did too much intervention care as opposed to preventative care.

“I don’t think the Democrats did it with Obamacare and if I can be candid, I’m not sure the Republicans are doing a much better job with what they are proposing.”

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Select Senate Republicans have been crafting their version of the Affordable Health Care Act in closed-door meetings for the past several weeks. On Thursday, they finally revealed the full details at a Republican Caucus meeting, with plans to enact deeper cuts to Medicaid and eliminate the individual mandate, among other provisions.

Lawmakers hope to take a vote on the Obamacare overhaul before Congress breaks for a July 4 recess. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not scored the Senate bill yet, so the full fiscal impact is still up for interpretation. But the House version which passed in May provides some clues.

The House bill included over $830 billion in cuts to Medicaid, and according to the CBO, would result in 23 million fewer Americans having health insurance.

Proposals outlined in the House bill have left senior-care proponents in Tennessee worried and angry. Advocacy groups for older Tennesseans formed a new organization in April to raise awareness about new threats to seniors under any proposed health care changes.

“The AHCA and threats to Medicaid quickly galvanized us, as we knew we had to do something,” said Tom Starling, who will be the chairman of the coalition for the first couple of years. “We couldn’t just wait around when such a threat was pending.”

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Even though the cuts would happen over a longer period of time, the deeper rollbacks to Medicaid in the proposed Senate bill could disproportionately impact older and low-income Tennesseans. According to the Tennessee Health Care Association, in June 2016, 60 percent of occupied nursing facility beds were filled with Medicaid/TennCare patients.

From the beginning of the debate on health care changes, the AARP has criticized the bill. Earlier this month, they released a series of TV ads urging Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander to vote against the AHCA.

Huckabee did not categorize the changes to Medicaid as cuts, but said the plan was “slowing the amount of growth,” and advocated for states to receive block grants from the federal government to allow for more flexibility.

Seniors in Tennessee should be more worried if Obamacare were to continue than about any new proposals regarding Medicaid, Huckabee contended. He thinks the current system would “short change them” quicker than any proposed legislation on the table now.

“The president has been real clear: He is not going to let people get stuck out on the street. Whatever of the final version is, it’s not going to be hurtful to seniors,” he said.

NHI CEO Eric Mendelsohn did not wish to wade into the politics of the proposed health care legislation and declined to comment. NHI is a Mufreesboro-based real estate investment trust that buys buildings for senior living homes then leases the property to providers.

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Huckabee, a champion of state-level and free-market solutions to health care, said that both the ACA and the Republican-backed AHCA would not solve the massive problems facing Americans.

“I just want to say to my Republican brethren in Washington: Quit lying to the American people and telling them it’s going to get cheaper, because it isn’t,” he said.

But Huckabee does not want to join his fellow Republicans in Washington or in any statehouse to make that change happen. Unsolicited, he said his political career was voluntarily over and he was turning his attention to his new Nashville-based talk show, and reassured the crowd he would not run for another elected office.

“There is a greater likelihood I will have transgender surgery than run for anything,” he said.

Reach Kirk A. Bado on Twitter @kirk_bado

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Originally published at www.tennessean.com on June 22, 2017.

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