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Gingrich Offers 10 Ideas For The Bipartisan Health Reform Summit

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"Gingrich Offers 10 Ideas For The Bipartisan Health Reform Summit"

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Newt Gingrich and John Goodman — the father of health savings accounts — have offered 10 ideas for President Obama to consider at the February 25th bipartisan health care summit. At least half are already part of the House or Senate health care bills (in one form or another) and the rest are of varying quality.

As a whole, Gingrich’s overarching vision would continue to shift the cost and risk of health insurance from the employer or the government to the individual. From large risk pools — in which the costs of coverage are spread across a large number of healthy and sick people — to a party of one.

The full run-down is below, but Gingrich’s prposal to “save” the Medicare program is worthy of extra attention:

Don’t cut Medicare: “The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.”

GINGRICH Of 2010, MEET GINGRICH OF 1995: The health care proposals eliminate a lot of the waste and fraud in the Medicare system and get rid of the overpayments to private insurers participating in Medicare Advantage. Traditional Medicare is not “cut”, in fact reform would extend the life of the Medicare trust fund. But the irony here is stark. As Speaker of the House, Gingrich sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and force millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs or HMOs. “We don’t want to get rid of it in round one because we don’t think it’s politically smart,” he said. “But we believe that it’s going to wither on the vine because we think [seniors] are going to leave it voluntarily.”

Read the rest:

Make health insurance portable: “Employers should be encouraged to provide employees with insurance that travels with them from job to job and in and out of the labor market…Individuals should have the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines.”

IN THE BILL: Individuals will be able to purchase health care coverage through an exchange that “travels with them from job to job in and out of the labor market.” Insurers are also able to sell policies across state lines by forming regulated compacts.

Stop health-care fraud: “Every year up to $120 billion is stolen by criminals who defraud public programs like Medicare and Medicaid…”

IN THE BILL: Everyone agrees we can do more to combat waste. The Senate health care bill, for instance, increases Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) funding and establishes new transparency and accountability standards (Title VI of Senate bill).

Eliminate the federal subsidy for employer-sponsored coverage: “The current taxation of health insurance is arbitrary and unfair, giving lavish subsidies to some, like those who get Cadillac coverage from their employers, and almost no relief to people who have to buy their own.”

PARTLY IN THE BILL: The Senate health care bill eliminates the subsidy for so-called Cadillac health care plans but beyond that, Republicans should be weary of destabilizing the employer based insurance system.

Protect early retirees: “A viable bridge to Medicare can be built by allowing employers to obtain individually owned insurance for their retirees at group rates…”

PARTLY IN THE BILL: Creates a reinsurance program to help cover expensive health claims for employers that provide coverage to Americans 55-64 and they can purchase coverage in the exchange.

Allow doctors and patients to control costs: “So long as total cost to the government does not rise and quality of care does not suffer, doctors should have the freedom to repackage and reprice their services. And payment should take into account the quality of the care that is delivered.”

PARTLY IN THE BILL: Allowing doctors to set their own rates would encourage a fair share of corruption and manipulation. Doctors should not be allowed to get rich from the Medicare system. But the idea of payment reform is a good one and it’s why both health care bills invest in pilot projects that move Medicare from fee for service to reimbursing for quality of care.

Eliminate junk lawsuits: “States across the country—Texas in particular—have already implemented key reforms including liability protection for using health information technology or following clinical standards of care; caps on non-economic damages; loser pays laws; and new alternative dispute resolution where patients get compensated for unexpected, adverse medical outcomes without lawyers, courtrooms, judges and juries.”

PARTLY IN BILL: Obama has expressed a willingness to consider malpractice reform and the Senate health care bill includes money for state demonstrations to test various approaches to the problem. However, tort reform is a tiny driver of overall health care spending and states that have adopted caps on noneconomic damages have failed to significantly lower health care spending.

Meet the needs of the chronically ill: “Most individuals with chronic diseases want to be in charge of their own care….Having the ability to obtain and manage more health dollars in Health Savings Accounts is a start.”

BAD IDEA: Americans with expensive chronic conditions will quickly deplete their savings accounts. The bills would do more to “meet the needs of the chronically ill” by providing them with affordable health insurance coverage and investing in prevention and wellness. Reform also invests in coordinated care to help those suffering with chronic illness manage their conditions.

Inform consumers: “Patients need to have clear, reliable data about cost and quality before they make decisions about their care….Government data—paid for by the taxpayers—can answer these questions and should be made public.”

INTERESTING IDEA: The bills could do more to provide patients with data they can use when reaching a treatment decision with their doctors, but studies have also shown that patients tend to chose the cheapest treatment rather than the best available and most effective treatment.

Don’t cut Medicare: “The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.”

GINGRICH Of 2010, MEET GINGRICH OF 1995: The health care proposals eliminate a lot of the waste and fraud in the Medicare system and get rid of the overpayments to private insurers participating in Medicare Advantage. Traditional Medicare is not “cut”, in fact reform would extend the life of the Medicare trust fund. But the irony here is stark. As Speaker of the House, Gingrich sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and force millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs or HMOs. “We don’t want to get rid of it in round one because we don’t think it’s politically smart,” he said. “But we believe that it’s going to wither on the vine because we think [seniors] are going to leave it voluntarily.”

Make medical breakthroughs accessible to patients: “We can do this by cutting red tape before and during review by the Food and Drug Administration and by deploying information technology to monitor the quality of drugs and devices once they reach the marketplace.”

TEST DRUGS ON PATIENTS? This idea is unclear, but hopefully Gingrich and Goodman aren’t suggesting we circumvent the FDA drug testing process and simply use “technology” to “monitor the quality of drugs” in patients.

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