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Mike Huckabee, Serious Medicine Strategist, on the Ryan Plan, and what Republicans--and all Americans--need to do next.

Posted May 26 2011 12:00am

Mike Huckabee was on Greta Van Susteren's "On The Record" show last night, discussing the Paul Ryan Medicare plan.   Using his trademark humor, as well as his insight in the practicalities of politics and the potential of science, Huckabee applied himself to to the crucial challenge of saving money on Medicare--and to the equally crucial challenge of saving money in a politically acceptable way.   Huckabee expressed his support and admiration for Ryan, but then added an essential supplement: A serious research effort aimed at reducing Medicare costs.  We might call it "The Ryan Plan Plus."

The point, he said, was to combine spending cuts and medical progress. Here's the key passage from his appearance last night

Look, nobody claims that Paul Ryan got the Medicare proposal that he got on two tablets of stone postmarked Mount Sinai.  But the fact is, he's put something on the table.  Now Republicans and Democrats can say, We like this piece, but here's how maybe we can improve the under 55.


One thing we ought to be doing, Greta, is putting more focus on the prevention of disease, and then the cures and management of disease.  We're going to be spending trillions of dollars on Alzheimer's disease alone over the next several decades.  It is a huge issue.  Let's put more cost in trying to prevent what is going to bankrupt Medicare.  That makes a lot of sense, and it's a great message for Republicans to adopt.

And, for the record, here's the whole of the Medicare-discussion transcript

VAN SUSTEREN:  Nice to see you, sir.  Governor, is the budget -- the Ryan budget plan sort of a litmus test for the Republican Party?  And do you agree with Rush Limbaugh that somebody within the Republican Party needs to step up?


HUCKABEE:  Well, the most important thing to remember is that Paul Ryan is the only person who's actually put a plan on the table.  Democrats keep talking about that they don't like Ryan's plan.  Where's theirs?
Where is their plan?


I think the Republicans need to make this a messaging battle and put it in terms people can understand.  For example, if I go shopping for milk, I look for the milk that has the longest life in it.  I don't buy a carton of milk that's going to expire tomorrow, I buy one that's maybe going to last for two more weeks.


What we need to understand is Ryan's not trying to get rid of milk, he's trying to make sure that the milk that we sell has the longest possible shelf life.  Now, Americans get that.  And so it's a matter of how we message this.  And it's very important, I think, for Republicans to say, Look, we like Medicare.  We think it's been a great safety net for a lot of people.  But we like it enough, we want to keep it on the shelf longer and not let it go bankrupt in the next few years, which is exactly what's going to happen.


VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, as I understand Congressman Ryan's plan -- see if I have it straight -- is that if you are 55 or older or 56 or older -- I can't remember the cut-off -- is that Medicare is as we know it, if you're under that age, that there is -- that it -- that it would change under his plan. And that's in recognition of the fact that we can't sustain it like it is because we can't afford it.  It's going to implode,  It's not going to work out.


So the debate between the Republicans and the Democrats, assuming that they're sitting in the same room, talking, would be, is how do we fashion for the people under the age 55 so that they can get the best case scenario with -- that's practical and reasonable based on our economic forecast, our demographics of who's going to be alive at that age, all those sorts of things.


Is that a fair description of where we are?


HUCKABEE:  It's a very fair description.  And I think one thing we have to remember.  I'm a big fan of Paul Ryan because I do think that he is a cerebral member of Congress that's not just throwing out some cute little sound bites, and he's taken an honest look and he's put some real numbers down.


Look, nobody claims that Paul Ryan got the Medicare proposal that he got on two tablets of stone postmarked Mount Sinai.  But the fact is, he's put something on the table.  Now Republicans and Democrats can say, We like this piece, but here's how maybe we can improve the under 55.


One thing we ought to be doing, Greta, is putting more focus on the prevention of disease, and then the cures and management of disease.  We're going to be spending trillions of dollars on Alzheimer's disease alone over the next several decades.  It is a huge issue.  Let's put more cost in trying to prevent what is going to bankrupt Medicare.  That makes a lot of sense, and it's a great message for Republicans to adopt.


VAN SUSTEREN:  I don't -- I don't have -- I don't have the answer (INAUDIBLE) have the answer.  But I certainly have strong feelings that anyone who doesn't have a plan or an idea is a big jerk, you know, in the sense that, you know, they've been sitting up there on Capitol Hill.  And it's not just enough to say no.  It's not just enough to say, I don't like your idea.  You know, there are a lot of them sitting up there, you know, saying, you know, without any ideas.  And the American people really care about the health.  If any American has sat in an intensive care unit and listened to the equipment and the breathing equipment some loved one knows how important it is. And I find it appalling that they aren't working this out better.


HUCKABEE:  Well, and I think what you just said is what the Republicans need to hit upon, is that they're willing to listen to ideas.  They're willing to make changes in the proposal.  But they're not willing to sit back and do nothing.  And they're willing to put their political careers on the line so that their kids and their grandkids don't see a country that goes bankrupt and they end up having to, you know, learn Mandarin just so that they can learn the language of their new country that's going to own every dollar they've ever earned.


That's why I think Paul Ryan has got to be given some support.  And again, this is not about saying we're going to get rid of Medicare.  Barack Obama was going to take half a trillion dollars out of Medicare through the "Obama care" budget.  And the Democrats act like he didn't even propose it!   Well, you can't take that much out of a system in which you got 10,000 Baby Boomers every single day retiring into it and spend less money.  That's simply not logical.
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