For Newt Gingrich, health care reform is a lot like space travel.
At a time when the Obama administration is struggling to implement the president's signature health care law, and Republicans have yet to coalesce around a feasible alternative, the former Republican Speaker and current CNN Crossfire host is coming forward with his own proposal for health care reform.
For those who recall his 2012 presidential campaign pitch to establish a colony on the moon, the fact that Gingrich's idea is heavy on future innovation and light on current policy reality will not come as a surprise.
Gingrich's new book, Breakout, explains the need to focus on innovative scientific research and cures. He sets up a duality between what he calls the "pioneers of the future" and "prison guards of the past." The pioneers he defines as scientists across the country that are developing innovative treatments; the prison guards are lobbyists, bureaucrats, and government officials, which he says inhibit these breakthroughs.
"The slowness and unwillingness of CBO and OMB on the one hand, and CMS and FDA on other hand, to develop and work with and be practical about these kinds of innovations is a major problem," he told National Journal.
Gingrich describes the need to both accelerate research and make patients more aware of their own medical information. Investing in areas like neuroscience research and regenerative medicine will save money and improve consumer health, he says.
"The potential is so enormous because the cost is so great. If you want to talk about entitlement reform, a breakthrough in Alzheimer's saves more money in 30 or 35 years than any conceivable reform that the Congress is going to adopt," he said. "Imagine a world not many years from now, where instead of getting kidney dialysis, you'll just get a new kidney. It's cheaper over the long run and gives you a much higher quality of life."
Of course, Gingrich's idea is not actually an Obamacare alternative—investing in innovative health care developments does not preclude the need for a health care system, or for reforms to our current model. If people are getting new kidneys, doctors still need to carry out the procedure.
Yet while he compares Obamacare to the Titanic, he says his idea could exist in tandem with a theoretical GOP health care proposal, which he believes is soon to come.
Gingrich says that previously the Republican strategy was attacking the law, followed by "staring in awe" at the rollout. "I think you're starting to see from Majority Leader Cantor and others a real effort to begin to say look, we're going to have to come back prepared with our replacement, not just be against Obamacare," he said.
Gingrich emphasizes the need for citizens to put pressure on their representatives to convince them of the importance of his proposal.
So will this approach receive the same pushback as his moon colony idea?
"The question is not whether or not the human race is going to go into space, the question is whether or not the U.S. is going to play a leading role," he responded. "And I think the same thing is true here. You know, we're going to get to regenerative medicine. The question is whether we do it in the United States, or whether we do it overseas."
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