The Newt Gingrich Approach to Health Reform

Newt Gingrich speaks at CPAC on February 10, 2011.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Nov. 24, 2013, 7:01 a.m.

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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