On ABC’s This Week today, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich claimed that most government-run health systems are disasters. He said that the Veterans Health Administration is “the one system that actually works reasonably well,” and dismissed Medicare as “basically a private system with a government funding.”
Gingrich also claimed that Americans really won’t have any “choice.” “One estimate by Lewin Associates [sic] is 131 million Americans will lose their private insurance and be pushed into a government plan,” he claimed.
DEAN: Look, let’s be fair. Lewin Associates is owned by a health insurance company. So let’s — let’s — let’s — the CBO, which I think is a more reasonable organization, says 5 million or 10 million people are going to end up there. [...]
Second of all, what the speaker didn’t tell you is, let’s just suppose you get forced out of your employer-based system, which I think is unlikely, but let’s suppose that you do. You’ve got a choice. The government will pay your subsidy to either go into — based on your income, either to go into the public option or a private option. Nobody is forcing you in to the public option.
Medicare is a government-run program. But conservatives have been dancing around that point because they know that the public is incredibly happy with it. A 2009 study by the Commonwealth Fund found that Medicare recipients reported greater satisfaction with their plans than those in employer-sponsored coverage by wide margins.
Later in the segment, host George Stephanopoulos had to personally call Gingrich out on one of his falsehoods. Last week, Sarah Palin said that the Obama administration was advocating “death panels” that would determine whether a person was “worthy of health care.” Gingrich tried to lend that myth credence by bringing up the writings of “Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who’s the chief adviser to the president and brother of the chief of staff.”
First, as Stephanopoulos pointed out, Emanuel is “not the chief health care adviser.” Second, Emanuel’s comments on end-of-life issues were part of “academic discussions of theoretical constructs” — not expressions of his personal beliefs on the current health care debate. Stephanopoulos noted that Emanuel had “written three articles between 1996 and 2008 that include some of those phrases.” “Those phrases appear nowhere in the bill,” he added.
DEAN: Look, we’ve — what the president wants to do is very straightforward. Sixty — or roughly sixty — fifty or sixty million Americans have what Newt has called socialized medicine or government-run health care. They’re over — over 65. They’re Medicare. That’s what Medicare is.
Now, what Obama is essentially saying is, Let’s give the choice of getting into a system like that or staying with what they have to the American people. So if you’re voting against having a public option, what you’re voting against is something that 72 percent of Americans in two polls want, which is the choice. Most of them aren’t going to sign up for the public option, but they think they have the choice.
Why shouldn’t they have the choice? Why should the health insurance companies have that choice?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the answer to that question?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, the government option we’re talking about — let’s look at where government runs the health system entirely. The Indian Health Service is a disaster. Medicaid is so corrupt and run so badly — we just published a book at the Center for Health Transformation called Stop Paying the Crooks, because our estimate is that government fraud between Medicare and Medicaid is between $70 billion and $120 billion a year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Veterans care works pretty well.
GINGRICH: Veterans care is the one system that actually works reasonably well. But the others do not. I mean, Medicare is basically a private system with a government funding.
An amendment was offered in every committee to have the — to have the members of Congress and their staff in any government option as a mandate. And if this is good enough for the American people, it’s good enough for the politicians. In every committee, the Democrats voted no. Now, why is it they want to insist on a government-run system for — for people other than the Congress, but the Congress and their staff would be exempt?
Second, it’s not — it’s just, I think intellectually not honest to suggest that this is going to be a matter of choice. The way the bill in the House — and we’re talking about a specific bill — the way the bill in the House would work, if your company didn’t offer any insurance, they would pay an 8 percent tax on their personnel cost.
For most companies, that would be a net savings of 3 percent, 4 percent or 5 percent. One estimate by Lewin Associates (sic) is 131 million Americans will lose their private insurance and be pushed into a government plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Dean, those arguments seem to have taken hold, at least in the Senate, where even Democrats say you’re not…
DEAN: Look, let’s be fair. Lewin Associates is owned by a health insurance company. So let’s — let’s — let’s — the CBO, which I think is a more reasonable organization, says 5 million or 10 million people are going to end up there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Depends on the amount of subsidy…
(CROSSTALK) DEAN: Second of all, what the speaker didn’t tell you is, let’s just suppose you get forced out of your employer-based system, which I think is unlikely, but let’s suppose that you do. You’ve got a choice. The government will pay your subsidy to either go into — based on your income, either to go into the public option or a private option. Nobody is forcing you in to the public option.
Now, a third thing is that nobody talks about is this bill is terrific for small business, and the Blue Dogs made it a better bill, and I hope (inaudible) gets through, it gets even better.
Right now in the House bill, if you have a payroll, if you’re a small business with a payroll of less than $500,000, you have no responsibility whatsoever to give your employees health insurance. That now becomes a subsidy based on your income, and then you can choose either a private or a public sector.
DEAN: This is — this is choice. This is real choice.