At the Republican presidential debate at Oakland University in Michigan on Wednesday night, CNBC moderator Maria Bartiromo asked the candidates a simple question:
“You have all said that you will repeal President Obama’s health care legislation. Down the line, 30 seconds, if you repeal Obamacare, what’s the answer?”
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said he’d meet with all 50 governors to talk about “cost containment,” how to get costs out the system and how to “empower patients to better understand what they are getting when they go into the doctor’s office.”
“Number two, we need to do a better job in harmonizing medical records so that we can pull up on a consistent basis the most efficacious course of treatment for patients,” Huntsman said. “And third, we need to close the gap on the uninsured without a costly mandate, letting the free market work and bringing people together with truly affordable insurance.”
Texas Rep. Ron Paul said the “answer to it is turn it back over to the patient and the doctor relationship with medical savings accounts.”
“What we need is the doctor-patient relationship and medical savings account where you can deduct it from your taxes and get a major medical policy. Prices then would come down,” Paul said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, “Obviously on the Medicare side, you have to have an insurance type of a program where people have options of which — give them a menu of options of which they can choose from.”
“I think you have to have the doctors and the hospitals and the other health care providers being given incentives on health care rather than ‘sick care,’” Perry said.
“And then on Medicaid,” Perry said, “it is really pretty simple, just like Jon and Mitt both know, you send it back to the states and let the states figure out how to make Medicaid work, because I will guarantee you we will do it safely, we will do it appropriately, and we will save a ton of money.”
Businessman Herman Cain referenced a bill, H.R. 3000, which “allows the decisions to be with the doctors and the patients, not with the bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.”
“The legislation has already been written … We didn’t hear about it in the previous Congress because ‘Princess Nancy’ sent to it committee and it stayed there. It never came out,” Cain said, referencing the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi.
When asked the question, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, “Health care in 30 seconds is a little tough. But let me try.”
Romney called for sending Medicaid money back to the states “so they can craft their own programs” and letting “individuals purchase their own insurance.”
“Number three, you do exactly what Ron Paul said. I don’t always say that,” Romney said to laughter.
“But I have got to say it right now. And that is, you have to get health care to start working more like a market. And for that to happen, people have to have a stake in what the cost and the quality as well as of their health care. And so health savings account, or something called co- insurance, that’s the way to help make that happen. And finally, our malpractice system in this country is nuts. We have got to take that over and make sure we don’t burden our system with it,” Romney said.
Likewise, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was irked about the time constraint to discuss the issue.
“To say in 30 seconds what you would do with 18 percent of the economy, life and death for the American people, a topic I’ve worked on since 1974, about which I wrote about called ‘Saving Lives and Saving Money’ in 2002, and for which I founded the Center for Health Transformation, is the perfect case of why I’m going to challenge the president to seven Lincoln-Douglas style three-hour debates with a timekeeper and no moderator, at least two of which ought to be on health care so you can have a serious discussion over a several-hour period that affects the lives of every person in this country,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said the country needs to go back “to a doctor-patient relationship and you involve the family in those periods where the patient by themselves can’t make key decisions. But you re-localize it.”
“Two, as several people said, including Governor Perry, you put Medicaid back at the state level and allow the states to really experiment because it’s clear we don’t know what we are doing nationally,” he said. “Three, you focus very intensely on a brand-new program on brain science because the fact is the largest single out-year set of costs we are faced with are Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, mental health, and things which come directly from the brain.”
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said, “What I would do to replace it is to allow every American to buy any health insurance policy they want anywhere in the United States, without any federal minimum mandate. Today there’s an insurance monopoly in every state in the country. I would end that monopoly and let any American go anywhere they want. That’s the free market.”
“Number two, I would allow every American to pay for that insurance policy — their deductible, their co-pay, their pharmaceuticals, whatever it is that’s medical-related — with their own tax-free money.”
Bachmann added: “And then, finally, I’d have true medical malpractice liability reform.”
And former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum used his time to argue he “was always for having the government out of the health care business and for a bottom-up, consumer-driven health care, which is different than Governor Romney and some of the other people on this panel.”
“When it comes to health care,” Santorum said, “back in 1992, I introduced the first health savings account bill that everybody up here said was the basis for consumer-driven health care. I was leading on that before anyone else was even talking about it.
“Secondly, I was someone who proposed a block grant for Medicaid way back in 1998 with Phil Gramm, again, leading on this issue. Same thing, reforming the Medicare program back in the 1990s, again, I led on these issues,” he said.