Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Newt Gingrich's "Health Idea" Deceptions

Although they say "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity", Newt Gingrich is not a stupid man. So there's no reason to cut him, or his writing partner Jon C. Goodman, any slack over their Wall Street Journal piece on "GOP Health Ideas". The first distortion comes right in the headline - despite his past role, Gingrich is not a spokesperson for the Republican Party. Instead he profits by advocating on behalf of the health industry. John Goodman likes to brag that he helped take down healthcare reform under the Clinton Administration, and if his mini-bios are indicative prefers to be called libertarian as opposed to "Republican". In other words, these aren't GOP ideas - they're the private ideas of the authors.

It isn't difficult to find the actual GOP ideas on healthcare reform. All you have to do is go to and click, er, look under, er... search... Hm. Not so much a GOP priority? Well then, let's try and whoah - they summarize their plan as reflecting four ideas:
Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.

Number two: allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.

Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.

Number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care costs by increasing the number of tests and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they think it's good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued.
And four ideas that neither offer any meaningful reform beyond weakening state protections to health insurance consumers and victims of malpractice - while simultaneously giving lip service to federalism. The CBO's scoring of the last "serious" GOP proposal boiled down to "It's just short of a joke". The proposal provided about 40% of the cost savings projected from the Democratic bill, while insuring 33 million fewer people (3 million more people insured by 2019, as opposed to 36 million under the Democratic bill).

Now I don't want to read too much into a CBO rating, as their methodology is not always great - and neither is their track record. Being nonpartisan does not, of itself, make your economic projections more accurate. But as CBO ratings are often held up as a gold standard by both major parties, it seems reasonable to compare actual GOP proposals to the Democratic bill on that basis.

No wonder Gingrich and Goodman prefer to embellish. Follow the links for more information on each idea:
  1. Make insurance affordable

  2. Make health insurance portable

  3. Meet the needs of the chronically ill

  4. Allow doctors and patients to control costs

  5. Don't cut Medicare

  6. Protect early retirees

  7. Inform consumers

  8. Eliminate junk lawsuits

  9. Stop health-care fraud

  10. Make medical breakthroughs accessible to patients

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