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January 03. 2012 10:44PM

Lone candidate in NH, Huntsman stumps at hospital

Former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman campaigns at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon. (Meghan Pierce)
LEBANON — While the other Republican presidential primary contenders made one last bid for votes in the Iowa Caucus on Tuesday, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman continued his courting of New Hampshire voters in a visit with health care providers at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.

Huntsman gave a stump speech and took questions from medical center staff in a Health Policy forum.

Huntsman reminded his audience that the New Hampshire primary vote is only a week away. “I need your vote. I need your help. I need your support. The New Hampshire primary is a week away. This country needs the help. This country needs the leadership.”

He also said that as a candidate he has a bad rap. “Here’s the rap on Huntsman, ‘He’d be a great general election candidate,” Huntsman said of himself. “’His problem is he can’t make it through the primaries.’ Well we’re going to prove we can do just fine in the primary starting right here in New Hampshire.”

When asked about Obamacare, Huntsman said he has not promised to repeal the health care law like many of his primary contenders, but said he would take a balanced approach to the bill. Good measures in the bill such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or allowing young adults to stay on their parents plan up to a certain age should stay in place, along with other good measures in the bill if possible, he said. He added the Supreme Court has yet to rule whether or not the bill is constitutional, he said.

“Let’s take a careful assessed approach,” he said. “As president I think my inclination would be to call together the fifty governors together, cause many of the governors have worked on various aspects of healthcare reform. … We’ve got to start with cost containment and transparency,” he said.

Closing the gap on the uninsured and making wellness care a priority in health care should also be addressed, he said.

“We’ve got to get our arms around the drivers of cost,” Huntsman said.

As governor of Utah, Huntsman reformed health care by inviting insurance companies to compete for customers while also offering the health care plan for state employees to residents if that was more affordable for them. Huntsman also said he would like to see insurance companies free to sell across state lines; which is currently prohibited by federal regulations.

“One of our first steps should be to eradicate those barriers. Let the insurance companies compete a little bit and drive those costs down,” Huntsman said.

One medical center staff member questioned Huntsman’s idea that a more competitive marketplace would solve the country’s issues with the uninsured and high health care costs when no other nation has taken that approach.

“I just don’t see why you have that faith that that would happen,” the man said. “I would just point out that if all the people in Utah moved to Canada they’d all be insured.”

After the forum Huntsman told reporters he doesn’t believe that campaigning in New Hampshire in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucus would hurt his primary chances.

“I do believe New Hampshire is the leveling place,” he said.

When one reporter asked Huntsman to differentiate himself from candidate Mitt Romney, Huntsman said that unlike Romney he would be electable in the general election.

“I haven’t been on three sides of the issues,” he said.

Huntsman held a town hall Tuesday night at the Peterborough Town House.

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