Newt Gingrich on Health Care

Former Republican Representative (GA-6) and Speaker of the House

Medicare opt-in to private health savings accounts

Medicare could allow beneficiaries to opt into a private health-insurance plan of their choice partially subsidized by Medicare dollars. A voucher in the amount of $2,500 annually (roughly 1/3 of what Medicare spends for the average beneficiary) would stimulate a tidal wave of innovative plan arrangements and therefore promote consumer choice. For many Americans, especially those arriving at age 65 with significant balances in their health savings accounts (HSAs) this option might be very attractive.
Source: Gingrich Communications website, www.newt.org Dec 1, 2006

Focus 21st Century Intelligent Health System on individuals

The current health system cannot be reformed because its approach is profoundly wrong in three specific areas. First, it emphasizes acute care rather than prevention. Second, it focuses on third-party payments, an area in which the individual has little knowledge and no control. And third, it relies on paper medical records rather than information technology.

We need to transform our health care system based on an entirely new set of principles. Our new 21st Century Intelligent Health System will be built around three big changes:

  1. Move knowledge from the doctor’s office and scientific laboratory to the individual as rapidly as possible;
  2. Help the health care system adopt top quality information technology systems to increase productivity, accuracy, and cut costs; and
  3. Center the process of health on the informed individual so he or she can have the knowledge, desire, responsibility, and opportunity to live the longest life, with the best health, at the lowest cost.
Source: Gingrich Communications website, www.newt.org Dec 1, 2006

Market competition yields more health choice at lower prices

Health care has been wrongly insulated from the competition that brings about higher productivity and lower cost. The issue is not that health care is different. In fact, when there is a commercial market in health care, prices behave much as they do in any industry. For example, everyone has watched the cost of laser eye surgery decline as it has grown more common, more convenient, and safer.

The lesson of nearly four hundred years of entrepreneurial, technology and science-based free market capitalism is very clear. You should expect to get more choices of higher quality at falling prices. This is the opposite of the rationing mentality of some left-wing politicians and the scarcity mentality of too many bureaucrats.

We need to bring these concepts into health and health care. We must insist that doctors, hospitals, medical technologies, and drugs have both quality and cost information available on-line so people can make informed decisions.

Source: Gingrich Communications website, www.newt.org Dec 1, 2006

1994: Declined gov't insurance but gov't paid 75% anyway

Health care reform represented a steep learning curve for more than a few members of Congress. Given the volume of bills they are expected to vote on, most members focus on legislation related to their committee assignments and don't have time to learn the intricacies of every issue before the House or Senate. But I was surprised to encounter more than one Congressman who didn't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, both federally funded health insurance programs. Others had no idea what kind of health insurance coverage they received from the government. Newt Gingrich contended during an appearance on Meet the Press in 1994 that he didn't have a government health insurance but bought it from Blue Cross-Blue Shield. In fact, his policy was one of many offered to federal employees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. And the government covered 75% of the $400 monthly bill for Gingrich and other members of Congress.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.232 Nov 1, 2003

Save dollars and save lives--so transform urgently

Understanding the difference between transformation and reformation is difficult. Taking a crack at transforming the health and healthcare system is daunting. The fact is transformation will not be easy. However, transforming health and heatlhcare is urgent, important, doable, and necessary.

Transforming health and healthcare is urgent, because it is about saving lives and saving money. Never before have we been at this historic moment in time where transforming a system as big as health and healthcare can and will mean so much to so many. The urgency comes from the ability to save thousands of lives every year if only we would transform the system to take advantage of the technology available to us right now.

Tranformation of healthcare is doable if we each do our share of the lifting. As an individual, become more responsible for your own health. As a user of healthcare, become proactive with your healthcare providers. As a citizen, let your voice be heard.

Source: Saving Lives and Saving Money, by Newt Gingrich, p.205 Sep 22, 2003

System broken due to “perfect storm” of converging problems

The blockbuster 2000 hit movie, The Perfect Storm, was based on a book written about “the storm of the century” that hit off the coast of Gloucester, MA in October, 1991. The strongest storm in recorded history, this perfect storm was actually two separate storms and one hurricane that combined into a single fury of 100-foot, unnavigable seas.

America’s healthcare system is nearing the edge of its own perfect storm. The system is broken.

Source: Saving Lives and Saving Money, by Newt Gingrich, p. 13-14 Sep 22, 2003

Tax credits for developing technology for disabilities

Medical advances are enabling people to live longer than previously possible with such conditions as spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, or Downs Syndrome. In addition, increasing numbers of people are now living into their eighties and beyond. Beyond the ethical obligation of caring for our country’s most vulnerable population, we must address the health of people with disabilities if we are to make any progress in controlling healthcare costs.

A basic principle for a 21st Century System of Health and Healthcare for people with disabilities is to keep these individuals independent for as long as possible.

We should be exploring tax credits and other financial incentives to encourage companies to develop the right technologies for people with disabilities.

Now, people who can benefit from technologies are often prevented from acquiring them because they are expensive and insurance companies are reluctant to pay for them.

Source: Saving Lives and Saving Money, by Newt Gingrich, p.196-197 Sep 22, 2003

Re-focus Medicare on preventive health instead of sickness

The essence of why Medicare is in critical condition is that it focuses on sickness and not health. It pays for your open-heart surgery, but it will not pay for your beta-blocker. It pays to amputate your foot, but it will not pay for your insulin. It will pay for your drugs while you are in the hospital, but it will not pay for the same drugs that would have kept you out of the hospital. Not only should Medicare pay for drugs, but it should pay for your SilverSneakers membership and Weight Watchers too!

Medicare must be strengthened to include a focus on outcomes-based healthcare. Immediately drugs should be reimbursed in order to de-incentivize reactive acute care. However, the current budgetary structure is clearly biased in favor of reactive care.

It should not matter if a patient is treated in a hospital, in a doctor’s office or in their home. The flow of resources should follow the patient and not be driven by a series of bureaucratic structures.

Source: Saving Lives and Saving Money, by Newt Gingrich, p.201 Sep 22, 2003

Market dynamics can save healthcare, not government control

Healthcare is currently one of the few industries not properly influenced by market dynamics. The essence of the problem is that the consumers (the patients) are not the buyers. They do not possess the financial leverage, which consumers have in almost every other sector of our economy, because they do not pay the bills.

Examples like the now-defunct Soviet Union have confirmed that centralized government control employing coercion through regulation or edict is not a good solution. America is the best current example of a democracy in which people loan their power to the government but remain the ultimate decision makers.

This attempt at centralized governmental control has spawned many of the raging storms we have today-- dissatisfied patients, restricted access, huge numbers of uninsured, unacceptable medical mistakes, a lack of information technology, and upwardly spiraling costs. These issues are exacerbated by our growing reliance on the government to pay for services

Source: Saving Lives and Saving Money, by Newt Gingrich, p. 22-23 Sep 22, 2003

Focus on prevention; would save $14B with diabetes

Diabetes can be dramatically diminished as a threat to health by periodic testing & preventive education. The CDC estimates that if [diabetics] learn to monitor their blood sugar, control their diet, and generally take care of themselves, not only will their lives be immeasurably better, we will save $14 billion a year. The 1997 Medicare reforms include the first steps toward the kind of preventive health program for the nation’s diabetics that will ultimately save both lives and money.
Source: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, by Newt Gingrich, p.200-201 Jul 2, 1998

Ongoing battle against liberals nationalizing healthcare

The Clintons launched a health plan with much fanfare. When the issue was coverage for people who had no health insurance, their advocacy went well, for the government seemed a reasonable answer to the problem. When, however, the issue became one of Americans turning over their own health care to the government, that was a very different matter. What had seemed a bold gamble in 1993 was by summer, 1994 a complete bust.

But liberals never take no for an answer. By 1996 they were back with the Kennedy-Kassebaum plan. We were able to dilute it and to establish medical savings accounts; nevertheless, they had taken some steps toward more government-run health care. In 1997 the President had the idea of providing care for the poorest children. We were able to stop the Washington-based bureaucracy proposed and to ensure that any program would be run at the state level. The point is that the liberals one way and another managed to stay focused on expanding government involvement in health care.

Source: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, by Newt Gingrich, p.191-192 Jul 2, 1998

Other candidates on Health Care: Newt Gingrich on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010