April 1996 Bulletin

Health care is an opportunity, not problem, says Gingrich

Health care could be the engine that drives America to a predominate place in the world economy in the next century, Rep. Newt Gingrich, (R-Ga.) told fellows at the Annual Meeting in Atlanta Feb. 23.

"We're on the edge of a revolution in opportunities in health care; on the edge of opportunities in job creation," he told the crowd in the Georgia World Congress Center.

"But we've got to get out of the mindset that thinks of health care as a problem and move into a mindset that thinks of health services as an opportunity.

"If we think of health care as an opportunity, it gives us a chance to be the highest value contributor on the planet so that in the 21st century you can buy American products in health care, including personal services from physicians, in exactly the way that in the mid-20th century you bought American manufactured commodities."

As people get wealthier, they will be willing to travel to America to get health care, Rep. Gingrich said. Currently, if a patient from abroad comes to the United States for health care, "it is viewed as a health care problem, when it really is an increase in foreign currency exchange which is as valuable as selling an auto or a ton of steel overseas," he said. "We should move health care out of the Department of Health and Human Services and into the Commerce Department."

He believes that as America moves into the 21st century there are five major changes benefiting medicine and the economy. The rise of molecular medicine will cure diseases and manage conditions that were historically a mystery, he said. The rise of telemedicine will enable physicians in one part of the United States or the world to treat patients elsewhere. It has created legal and liability problems that have to be solved, but Rep. Gingrich said telemedicine will provide rural America with a dramatic expansion in the quality of medicine.

A third change is the rise of expert systems that will enable people to enjoy more independent living. Rep. Gingrich believes that by the year 2020 the number of people in nursing homes will be declining. He envisions an increase in entrepreneurial marketing providing increased access to health care and decreased health care costs.

The aging baby boomers will provide the impetus to an increased focus on wellness. "We need to emphasize prevention and wellness and insist that the patient has some responsibility for their own health," he said. The statement brought one of many outbursts of applause from the audience.

The biggest audience reaction came when Rep. Gingrich criticized trial lawyers for aggressively advertising for clients to file lawsuits. "I'm sick and tired of turning on the television and seeing these ads, 'Hi, have you sued anyone recently. Why not on come down and bring your Rolodex to lunch.'

"No society can afford to commercially encourage conflict. It is insane, morally wrong, and violates the traditions of our judicial system."

"We are totally committed to malpractice reform," he said. "The current model of litigation hurts America. It forces you and your patient to see each other as potential adversaries when you want to see each other as colleagues pursuing better health."

Rep. Gingrich promised that if Republicans maintain control of Congress they would provide litigation relief, repeal the "Stark" regulations and create a tax code "that makes sense so you have a system where you have a chance to focus on being a doctor instead of a petty bureaucrat and red tape collector for government."

He also said Congress would pass a reduction in capital gains taxes which could stimulate investment in biotechnology, pass medical savings account legislation, and reform the Food and Drug Administration "from the ground up."

Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tells the media that there must be a political dialogue on how to help America in the world market - a dialogue that focuses on solutions, not problems.

Health care is an opportunity, not a problem, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

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