Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. In 1995, Time magazine selected him as their Person of the Year for his role in leading the Republican Revolution in the House, ending a 40-year Democratic Party majority. A Ph.D. in Modern European History, he is the author of the non-fiction works "To Renew America" and "A Contract with the Earth," among others, as well as a variety of works of historical fiction. He is currently a senior fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute—where he focuses on health care, information technology, the military, and politics—and the founder of the Center for Health Transformation. He lives in McLean, Virginia.
Question: What is your ideal model of healthcare?
Newt Gingrich: I think everybody, certainly we at the Center for Health Transformation would like to see 305 million Americans with health insurance, or with some form of financial coverage. We would accept the libertarian argument that if you don’t want to buy health insurance, you could be allowed to post a bond or in some other way to be financial responsible, but we do think everybody should be in a position to have healthcare without having to rely on the state, or rely on charity.
Having said that, we don’t want a singer payer system, we don’t want a government dominated system, we don’t want a bureaucratically imposed system. We want a system where the individual and their doctor have a relationship that’s direct and where the individual has substantial choices and substantial opportunity to make responsible decisions.
Question: What is your organization working toward in this area?
Newt Gingrich: Well, we helped found the Center for Health Transformation to develop a new 21st century model of health and healthcare designed to save lives and save money. We believe you can save, for example, between $70 and $120 billion a year from fraud, from people who are crooks stealing money in Medicare and Medicaid. We believe you can get a dramatically better system by focusing first on the individual, getting them to be responsible for their health, getting them to be aware of their health, getting them to monitor and manage their health. And we think that you need fundamental payment reform to align incentives with what we say our values are in terms of keeping people healthy. We believe you need litigation reform, which has led to unnecessary expense because of defensive medicine.
So, we believe you could have a bi-partisan, transparent, openly achieved health reform bill. We’d be glad at the Center for Health Transformation to work on such a bill with the Obama Administration, but they’d have to give up their commitment to left-wing authoritarian, big government models and be willing to actually talk openly about reform rather than the kind of this direction they’ve been going in.
Question: How would you advise Obama in forming a more bi-partisan plan?
Newt Gingrich: There was a recent book that came out called The Pact, which talked about how Clinton and I had worked together and planned a whole series of major reforms. President Clinton came recently to Senator Trent Lott’s hanging of his portrait as the former Senate Majority Leader, and the three of us were together and President Clinton said, as part of his remarks, “The people will forget how much we got done together by being practical. And we could fight half the day and we could cooperate have the day. And we understood which half was which.” My first advice to the President would be, slow down, open up, invite the American People to participate.
It was an enormous mistake to allow Pelosi and Reed to write the stimulus package and to pass it without anybody who was elected having read it.
It was an enormous mistake to ram through a left-wing, high tax, energy bill in the House.
It’s a huge mistake to try to ram through health reform for one-sixth of the economy on a partisan basis with secret negotiations in the White House.
This country would love to have a bi-partisan, or tri-partisan, Democrat, Republican, and Independent effort out in the open to work together to solve our problems. No one will be totally comfortable. But it would be dramatically healthier for the country. It is possible.
It’s not possible as long as there is a Reed/Pelosi machine in charge of the Congress and it’s not possible as long as the President talks one way in public and acts another in private. And that’s why, the eight times he’s on videotape promising that C-Span would cover the negotiations and the fact that he has turned down C-Span’s offer to cover the negotiations is so devastating. If you say something once that might be an idea, if you say it eight times, that’s a promise. And I think the President’s got to decide, does he really want to spend the next three years governing in secret in a partisan way? Or does he want to fundamentally change and learn the lessons of the first year of his administration?