Gingrich on health care

For several years, Newt Gingrich was one of the more interesting voices in the health care policy world. He joined obscure policy entities, developed interesting ideas, promoted the use of technology as a BIG part of the solution, wrote a book, and sat on committees dedicated to improving quality.
That was then, this is now.
Interestingly, many of the ideas Gingrich now assaults he supported less than a decade ago.
Some of the people he decries he sat next to on policy panels and publicly praised.
Here’s an excerpt from an excellent piece by Michael Millenson:
“Gingrich-as-health-wonk for years advocated reforms such as “data-driven reimbursement” informed by best practices, a national electronic health network and a focus on prevention and wellness. All those items — and others Gingrich supported — are contained in the HITECH Act, part of the budget stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act…
a former colleague of Newt’s on [the National Commission on Quality Long-Term Care] is now one of the Obama administration’s most prominent health care bureaucrats, Dr. Donald Berwick. Back then, New Newt must have listened and learned, since in his book he praises Berwick’s quality improvement work. But today’s Old Newt told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that Berwick’s appointment as head of the Medicare program was just another example of Obama’s “secular Socialist machine.”
And yes, this is the same Newt Gingrich who’s now backtracking as fast as he can from his scathing comments about Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.
I know, I know, this is just politics.
I know, I know, the ‘news’ that a politician is being hypocritical and intellectually dishonest is NOT news.
I wish it was.


Rep Paul Ryan’s (R WI) Plan to address the deficit relies heavily on private health insurers to solve the seemingly-intractable health care cost inflation problem. Today we’ll finish the discussion of his solution for Medicare.
Ryan’s Medicare plan does include means-testing and increases in the age of eligibility, both of which will affect costs on a macro scale. Means testing increases revenues for CMS, while increasing the eligibility age reduces the number of recipients – both valuable and needed, but neither does anything meaningful to restrain the increase in health care costs for Medicare recipients.
In fact, Ryan’s plan will increase Medicare’s cost trend by ‘fixing’ the physician reimbursement schedule, a fix that will add about $350 billion to the deficit today, and do nothing to reduce physician costs going forward. Beyond that, there’s precious little in his plan that does anything material to address the real problem – health care cost inflation.
For that, Ryan is relying on private insurers, who would take over responsibility for Medicare. They would be paid a fixed price, and would be expected to provide all necessary benefits for that price – an approach that’s very similar to how the private insurance market works today. How’s that going to work?
Pretty well, according to Ryan, who asserted that the Congressional Budget Office had reviewed his numbers. (at least that’s what I think he says; read it yourself here.)
Well, the CBO did review his plan, and the results are pretty discouraging.
Here’s Forbes’ Rick Ungar:
“Accordingly to the CBO estimates, the program would result in seniors paying twice as much for their care – a sum that would total more than $12,510 a year…
The GOP proposal, which would begin in 2022, involves providing a ‘voucher’ – or as Ryan likes to call it, ‘premium support’ – to seniors to help pay for their health insurance. The average American would receive a check for $8,000, representing roughly what the CBO estimates Medicare would have to fork out for the average beneficiary in 2022. In addition to the government’s costs, the CBO estimates that seniors, in 2022, would lay out about $6,150.00 in out-of-pocket costs in the Medicare system. That totals an average cost of health care for participating seniors, in 2022, to be $14,770.
Under the GOP privatization plan, the cost to purchase the health insurance policy would cost about $20,520 per year – leaving the seniors out of pocket in the amount of $12,510 or more than twice what they would pay in 2022 should the Medicare system we currently have continue.”
Ryan says his plan is adjusted to account for medical inflation; in actuality Medicare premium increases in the Ryan plan are based on the overall inflation rate, which is significantly lower than the medical CPI.
Fact is, private insurers have been managing Medicare for millions of beneficiaries for well over a decade, and they’ve shown no ability whatsoever to control costs. In fact, when the subsidy paid to private insurers was cut, they screamed bloody murder.
What does this mean for you?
While there are parts of Ryan’s Medicare plan that deserve serious consideration (increasing eligibility age for one), his reliance on private insurance is naive at best, and the complete lack of real controls over cost is quite disappointing. After all the fanfare over his plan and willingness to take on the tough issues, Ryan’s shown himself to be just another number-massaging political operator.