Huckabee says America in health crisis

HEALTH CARE SYMPOSIUM — Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, addresses Wednesday the Health Care Symposium 2018 at Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge. -- Joselyn King

WHEELING — America doesn’t have a health care problem, but it does have unhealthy people and a national health crisis that needs to be addressed.

Those statements came from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also was a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016. He provided the keynote address Wednesday for the Health Care Symposium 2018. The event was sponsored by The Health Plan at Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge.

Huckabee began his talk by saying America doesn’t have a health care crisis, but rather has a health crisis. People come from all over the world to get medical treatment in America, he said.

“When somebody has a rare form of cancer, where do they go for treatment? Cuba?” he asked. “If they have some very strange disease that is esoteric, how many people go to Great Britain for treatment? They don’t. They come here.”

Government’s approach to the health care issue is that it has focused on the providing of health care, rather than seeking to improve overall health of Americans, according to Huckabee.

He suggested changes in culture need to occur in the country to make people more receptive to changes in their health care habits, and that a public awareness campaign is necessary.

Huckabee spoke of his own health experiences. In 2003, he was told by doctors he must lose weight if he were going to live another decade. Since then, he has lost 110 pounds by improving his diet and exercising.

He said his health problems started as he grew up dirt poor in rural Arkansas, where everything he ate was fried. This included meats, vegetables and desserts.

“You take the cheapest cut of meat money would buy, then you would beat the daylights out of it, bread it and fry it,” he said. “The reason southerners deep-fry so many foods isn’t just because it tastes good, which it does. It’s also an economic necessity of poverty.”

Huckabee also attributed the culture of being Baptist to his bad diet. He recalled being in elementary school, and each student was asked to bring in an item symbolic of their religious faith to show the class.

A Catholic student brought her rosary, while a Jewish boy explained his menorah.

“I brought the only thing I knew represented my faith,” said Huckabee. “I brought a casserole in a covered dish.”

Not only does America have a health crisis, it also has a problem paying for the level of health care established by government for a population that’s growing older.

He cited figures indicating that the typical American incurs 85 percent of their lifetime health care costs during the last 18 months of their life. They are to the point of being chronically ill when they reach this stage of life, he said.

In addition, it’s estimated 75 percent to 85 percent of total health care costs in America are related to chronic disease leading to heart conditions and diabetes, according to Huckabee.

“We have a base of chronic disease that largely the result of overeating, under exercising and smoking,” he said. “Add in genetics, and you have the perfect storm.”

Huckabee said Obamacare is flawed in that it offers no lifetime limits, no exclusions for pre-existing conditions and no opportunities for exclusion by insurance companies. He equated this to seeking homeowners insurance for a home that burned to the ground yesterday.

Those already diagnosed with chronic issues need to be covered by a government-subsidized program separate from the general population, and this would keep overall insurance costs down, according to Huckabee.

“Some of my more conservative friends may say government shouldn’t be involved in this, but the government is already involved,” he said. “We need to make sure there is a pool for those with pre-existing conditions.”

(King can be contacted at