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HSAs, not Obamacare, promote personal responsibility, Carson says

Last modified: 4/8/2015 12:32:32 AM
Dr. Ben Carson, a potential presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon, questioned the motivations behind the Affordable Care Act speaking in Manchester yesterday.

“If you can control the most important thing a person has – their health and their health care – then you’re well on your way to controlling every aspect of their life,” he said.

Before President Obama’s signature health care law took effect, he said, 85 percent of people were satisfied with their health insurance – leaving only 15 percent looking for change.

With “the amount of time and money we spent, we could have given that 15 percent the best plan anybody can imagine and still been in much better shape,” said the renowned former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who was the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.

“It makes me wonder about the motivations. Can people really be that dense, or do they have other motivations in mind?” he said, speaking at a gathering of the National Cultural Diversity Awareness Council at the Radisson Hotel.

Carson said he was brought up in poverty by a mother working multiple jobs, leaving at 5 a.m. and returning at midnight. In spite of her struggle, he said, she didn’t seek welfare benefits because “she noticed most people she saw go on welfare never came off of it.”

In many places across the country, it’s easier to “cultivate all the various entitlement programs and live on that than it is to work a minimum wage job,” Carson said, adding that the system is an incentive for people to not work and therefore not develop their skills.

He said “trillions and trillions of dollars” have been spent “since the Great Society programs of the ’60s,” resulting in more people on food stamps, more people in poverty, more broken families, more crime and more incarceration.

“Everything that was supposed to be better is much worse,” he said. “Intelligent people would look at that and say, ‘Hmm, maybe we need to change course.’ And people who perhaps have lost their cerebral connection would not think that. They would say, ‘We need to throw more money at it.’ ”

There’s a silent, logical majority in the country, Carson said, who need to speak up if that course is to change. The health care debate is critical, he said.

Saying he won’t complain about something without offering an alternative, Carson touted health savings accounts as a way for people to take control of their own health care spending.

If a person stows away money in an HSA their whole life and leaves it when they die or shifts it to family members when necessary, it causes that person to become a smart shopper and to encourage family members to be healthy, he said. An insurance policy would only be needed for catastrophe and therefore would come at a tremendously lower cost, he said.

“Every family becomes their own insurance company and then when the uncle’s smoking like a chimney, everybody’s going to say, ‘Hey Unk, that’s not a good idea,’ because they know it might affect them too,” he said.

In the case of the indigent, Carson said $400 billion is spent annually on Medicaid and 80 million participants – or $5,000 apiece they could put into their HSAs. He said the ACA limits HSAs because “it recognizes it would be formidable competition.”

He emphasized the need to “think outside the box” in problem-solving and to re-evaluate what’s always been done, as is done in surgery.

Carson said he plans to decide whether he’ll run by the first week in May. He said he raised $2.1 million in the 28 days after he formed an exploratory committee.

He said he doesn’t want to run for president, but likened the current situation to a long day at the hospital when he’s ready to head home and an emergency comes in – and he’s not ready to hand off to the on-call doctor.

Anthony Boame, a 20-year-old studying pre-law and creative writing at New England College, took an opportunity to be photographed with Carson. He said his family struggled while he was growing up and his mother urged him for years to be like Carson, although Boame wants to become a lawyer and U.S. ambassador en route to being president.

Boame said Carson’s medical background sets him apart from the other candidates, and if he can hold his own in the business and foreign policy realms, “he’d be pretty much perfect.

“He knows a lot more about health care than other candidates,” Boame said. “That’s a big thing on American minds.”

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325 or nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickBReid.)


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