Coming This Summer: Health Care Wars

The Washington battle that will most directly and profoundly affect you and your families’ lives is the battle for the future of our health care system, which will play out this summer.

On one side are forces advocating a big government, big regulation approach that will transform the private health system into a government-dominated bureaucracy.

On the other side is a new plan that gives individual Americans control over their health care, and provides the affordability and choice that makes that control meaningful.

Both sides share the goals of providing health insurance to all Americans and reining in health care costs. The difference is how each plan would get there. One by government controlling — and ultimately rationing — your care.  The other by you controlling and making informed decisions about you and your families’ most precious possession: Your health.
A Transformative Proposal for Health Care:  The Patients Choice Act

While the nation waits to see the plan President Obama will put forward, last week Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) introduced The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009.

They should be applauded for their leadership.  The Patients’ Choice Act is a serious, transformative proposal that, if enacted, would dramatically improve our health care system and the health of individual Americans.

Unlike government-centered plans that empower bureaucracies, The Patients’ Choice Act empowers individuals.

Empowering Individuals Instead of Bureaucracies

The Patients’ Choice Act takes on the toughest challenges we face: improving individual health and managing chronic disease; delivering the best quality care; expanding affordable coverage to every American; and putting Medicare and Medicaid on solid, sustainable ground.

And every idea starts in exactly the right place: with the individual. Individuals should be empowered and encouraged to decide for themselves what is best for them. From choosing what doctor to see to what insurance to buy to what course of treatment to take, only an individual-centered health care system will bring about the real change we need.

According to its sponsors, the main goals of The Patients’ Choice Act are these:

  • Emphasize Prevention:  Focusing on prevention not only leads to better health but lowers long term costs.

  • Create a Market that Works for Patients:  The Patients’ Choice Act gives insurance companies incentives to cover chronically sick patients, provides businesses transparent rules, and gives patients convenient and affordable options.
  • Guarantee a Choice of Coverage Options:  Patients can choose from a variety of private insurance plans.

  • Insist on Fairness for Every Patient.
  • Fairly Compensate Patient Injuries:  The bill creates a legal system that serves the interests of the injured, not the interests of trial attorneys.
  • No Tax Increases or New Government Spending:  For each American, our country already spends almost twice as much as other industrialized countries spend on health care.  It’s time we got something better for our money.
  • Restore Accountability to Government Programs:  Our children and grandchildren will face future tax increases to pay for the $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities in the Medicare program alone unless something changes.  And, according to some estimates, fraud and waste account for 10 percent of all health care spending.  That’s approximately $100 billion each year.
  • Include Ideas for Governors and States:  Washington has proven time and again that a one-size-fits-all mandate won’t work.  True health reform must include governors, states, and every American citizen.

It’s Time to Move From Ideas and Options to Real Solutions

The Patients’ Choice Act complements the thoughtful work done so far by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican member.  They have published three detailed papers exploring what reform options are being considered in three major areas: improving the delivery of care, expanding coverage, and paying for reform.  They’ve invited public comment throughout the process and worked with industry representatives, in public hearings and in private meetings. 

The introduction of this transformative legislation is proof that it’s time to move from options to real solutions.

The Center for Health Transformation (CHT), which I helped found, is working with both sides of this debate to encourage legislation that encompasses a number of policy proposals that are necessary to transform our health system.  Our proposals span the entire health care spectrum from improving individual health, converting to an electronic health system, combating fraud and waste in our Medicare and Medicaid programs, and expanding coverage to every American.

10 Essential Principles of Health Care Reform

CHT has developed the following 10 principles which we believe must be included in any major health reform bill:

  1. Every American should be encouraged and incentivized to take personal responsibility for his or her health.
  2. Every American should have genuine access to quality, cost-effective care that best meets his or her individual needs.
  3. Every American should have health insurance coverage (private or public) that is affordable, accessible, and portable — no matter where he or she chooses to work or live.
  4. Health care providers should deliver the best possible care based upon best evidence or best practice.
  5. Every provider of care, from doctors and nurses to pharmacists and hospitals, should be interconnected with an electronic health record for every American.
  6. Payment to providers should be based on the quality of care delivered, not the number of transactions or services provided.
  7. Cost, quality, and performance information should be available and accessible to all consumers.
  8. Government should promote and encourage competitive, market-based solutions in the private sector.
  9. Government should offer effective, efficient, and sustainable public programs for those who need them.
  10. Government should aggressively invest in targeted clinical research, laying the foundations for future breakthroughs and cures.

You can read our entire plan here along with a checklist for you to grade any proposals your representatives put forth.  

The problems we face in health care know no political party, and neither do all the solutions.  As the debates begin in earnest over how to actually solve these problems, everyone should be encouraged to offer ideas []. We are at our best when we work collaboratively to put forth bold, transformative solutions.

Your friend,

Newt’s Quick Links

•    Callista and I had a busy week celebrating the premiere of our new film, “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny."  On Wednesday we appeared on both “Good Morning America” and on “Fox and Friends."

•    Following on the extraordinary success of “Rendezvous with Destiny,” Callista and I are traveling to Poland this week to work on our latest film project, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” a documentary about Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland in June, 1979.  To learn more about this exciting film, which is projected for release this fall, just go here.

•    My daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman and I were also busy this week promoting our new book, 5 Principles for a Successful Life:  From Our Family to Yours.  On Tuesday, I discussed the book in lively exchange with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”

•    Last year, on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day, over 1,500 radio stations honored our troops and our nation’s religious heritage by playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s extraordinary, six-minute, nationally broadcast prayer to the nation that first aired just hours after allied troops were storming the beaches of Normandy.  

Will you help continue this new patriotic tradition?  Just call your favorite radio program and encourage them to play FDR’s D-Day Prayer on June 6.  For more information, including how to reach your favorite radio programs, just go here.

•    Please join me, House Republican Leader John Boehner, and Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, on June 8 at the Senate House Dinner in Washington, D.C. Can’t attend, but want to show your support? Sign up for the Virtual Attendee and other packages at