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Reforming Health Care

Underdog presidential candidate Mike Huckabee reacts to an out-of-work steelworker's plight.

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The surprise second-place finisher in last weekend's Iowa straw vote for Republican presidential candidates was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister and a bass player who specializes in stump jams featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird."

Huckabee is also one of the few GOP candidates talking about health-care reform. Just before the straw vote in Iowa, Hardball's Chris Matthews asked Huckabee to comment on the plight of Steve Skvara, a lifelong Chicago steelworker whose company went out of business, paying off its executives with golden parachutes but leaving both Skvara and his wife without the pension and health-care benefits they had been promised.

Here is Huckabee's response to Matthews. — Jackson Baker

The first thing we've got to do as a Republican Party is quit being a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the corporations that have done exactly what Steve talked about. And that is: allow workers at the bottom to make money for their companies and then let a CEO get a pension, get a wonderful bonus, take a trip to the Riviera, and Steve takes a trip to the poorhouse.

Not many Republicans are willing to say it, but we better say it or we're not going to win another election for a generation. We've allowed a lot of people in the airline industry — the baggage handlers, the ticket agents, the clerks — to take 40 percent pay cuts. The executives who steer the company into bankruptcy ... they get a $200 million bonus.

And it's not based on capitalism. This is sheer, unadulterated greed, and that's not what makes a strong economy. And it's going to ruin not just this country. It's going to collapse the Republican Party, if we don't start standing up and saying that you can't have that kind of economy, where CEOs make 500 times that of their workers and call that perfectly acceptable. It's not acceptable. And people like Steve have got to be factored into the equation.

I came from a working family. I understand what it's like when you have a dad who has the grub of the day on his hands and never got it off as long as he lived, never finished high school, and wanted his kid to do better than him.

A lot of Americans have been able to live better because our parents sacrificed for us. You look at a guy like Steve and you realize we better run for president and remember him and not just the folks who come to the high-price cocktail parties in Manhattan and Georgetown.

One thing we have got to do is to change this post-World War II healthcare system, which is based on tying your health care to your employer. That may have been fine when my dad and people of his generation worked for the same people for 30 years. People do not do that now. 

We need plans that are tied to the individual, not to their workplace. I need to own my own health care. I need to be able to get the best doctors I can. And that is not going to happen if I have got somebody up the company corporate ladder who is looking after the company's interests, not mine. 

So the first thing is to move to a portability-based system and a personally owned system. Empower people to have their own health care, pick their doctors, bring quality into the equations. Let us know what it is really costing. Give me the power of information to shop as a consumer. 

[Give me] electronic medical records that belong to me, not to my doctor, so that I can carry them with me to the best health-care professionals I can get.

... [T]here are some of us who are looking at this as a fundamentally upside-down system. 

Now a candidate for president, Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007.

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