Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, host of The Mike Huckabee Radio Show and ABC Radio political commentator, wowed the crowd at the American Ambulance Association's 2012 conference in Las Vegas during his keynote address on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Huckabee won over the hearts and minds of the attendees when he revealed that he had been an EMT in his earlier life and learned a lot from that experience. He shared that years after taking his EMT course, he performed CPR on a woman who collapsed in front of him and credited the repetitive, solid EMT training he had received with helping him to learn how to act immediately and instinctively. He was surprised, and impressed, to learn from Bill Brown, executive director of the National Registry of EMTs, that his registry number was 58,672.
But Huckabee quickly got down to business and told the EMS audience that, whether we agree with it, everyone in America will be affected by the effects of the Affordability Care Act and its many changes and challenges.
Huckabee got everyone’s attention when he said he doesn’t think we have a real healthcare crisis in America. The real issue, he said, is that we have a very unhealthy population, not a poor healthcare system. He went on to explain that he believes we have exceptional healthcare and resources in the U.S. but we fail to direct enough attention and resources to preventing illnesses and stopping them before they become serious. He noted that 85% of a person’s healthcare costs are encountered during the last 18 months of their life; yet, we spend a majority of our healthcare dollars on other areas.
He stressed the need for enhanced, preventive healthcare, saying, “It’s better to put a fence at the top of a cliff than a trauma center at the bottom of the cliff.”
Huckabee stressed that with corrective action you can make a difference. He told the audience that, 12 years ago, he was diagnosed with Type-II diabetes; but, with lifestyle changes, he was able to control his condition. He said that this experience taught him how some people get into unhealthy situations often because of their culture or financial standing. He shared how growing up poor in the south meant almost every meal in his home involved fried food because it was easy to make supper out of leftovers by adding a few ingredients and frying it.
Pointing out the benefits of preventative medicine, Huckabee said, “It would be better (and cheaper) to buy an elderly person a pair of eyeglasses to be able to read and properly take her prescriptions on time, and at the right dosage, than having that person over- or under- dose on their medications and land up in the hospital, costing the healthcare system tens of thousands of dollars.” Huckabee also said we need to convince Congress that what works in the delivery of rapid, urgent care in the battlefields of Afghanistan can work just as effectively on the streets of America’s cities.
He added that he conducted his own personal survey of 183 physicians and that all of them told him that they don’t support the Obama administration’s healthcare approach and would seek to retire as soon as they could. He said that’s not the way it should be and that we should, instead, listen to the practitioners that deliver the care to learn the best ways to improve it.
“I’ve learned things from raising kids and dogs. If there is a behavior that you want more of, you reward that behavior and you will get more of it,” Huckabee said. “Congress needs to learn that if you keep punishing the people who do the most good [such as the healthcare providers] it will have detrimental effects in the long run.”
Answering a question from the audience about what he would do if he was still governor of Arkansas, Huckabee said he would resist the federal healthcare initiative because, in his experience as a governor for 10 years, he found that the federal government was “good at getting things started, but had a poor track record at finishing them.” He said they end up “sucking air” and leaving the states with many programs that need to be cleaned up and maintained.
However, he added that he doesn’t believe, as some people are saying, that the U.S. is doomed and that we won’t be able to recover from the fiscal cliff and future healthcare challenges. He noted that Americans have a proven track record of stepping up and turning a crisis around. He concluded his remarks about the healthcare challenges that lie ahead, comparing them to the challenges of politics, marriage, and life, paraphrasing the words of “the great philosophers The Rolling Stones, ‘you don’t always get what you want,’ so you have to work with what you have and make the best of it.”