Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution Friday on the need for a fundamental re-consideration of the nation’s healthcare system.
“I really believe we want to fundamentally reset how we think about things, as opposed to thinking better about how we already think,” Gingrich said. He used an analogy of a 1904 transportation conference focusing on the useful issue of wagon design but overlooking the revolutionary emergence of early car and airplane technology.
In presenting his vision for a dramatic conceptual shift, Gingrich cautioned against a singular focus on federal spending reductions. Investment in science, Gingrich said, was necessary to bring down future costs.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal received criticism from Gingrich. While the former Speaker of the House credited the House Budget Committee chair’s plan for thinking on the right scale, he noted, “there are details I disagree with. One of them is cutting investment in science and research.”
Gingrich said that Ryan’s intention to reduce science funding was “essentially like saying I want to save money on your car, we’re not going to change the oil. And for about a year I can get away with it. And then the engine will freeze up and we’ll have to replace your engine. But if I have a CBO that scores oil but doesn’t score engines, I can annually replace the engine for free, because it won’t count as a budget cost.”
Gingrich said that he would like for the entire health system to be reconsidered. He emphasized that scientific breakthroughs and technological advances held promise to bring down costs. “If you think about post-Obamacare solutions, what’s clear from the Ryan budget, which I think is a historic and courageous effort to at least get to the right scale of thinking, is that you cannot solve the cost of healthcare for an aging population within the current paradigm,” Gingrich said.
“I want to be quite clear– this is a deliberate, fundamental argument against the entire current delivery system– whether it’s the right-wing version of the current delivery system or the left-wing,” the former Speaker continued.
Gingrich singled out Alzheimer’s disease throughout his speech as an example of where medical breakthroughs could dramatically reduce future federal spending. If the onset of the disease could be postponed for five years, which Gingrich asserted was possible within a short period of time, then older Americans would either be less likely to develop it, or would not have it for very long, bringing down health costs.
Gingrich cited estimates that federal spending alone to treat Alzheimer’s would be $20 trillion between now and 2050, or one and a half times the current federal debt. “Now you would think that a serious country with serious leaders would look at a $20 trillion cost center, which by the way implies an enormous amount of human pain,” Gingrich said, “and yet, there is no serious conversation.”
Establishing a new brain science agency was one of Gingrich’s recommendations. Funds could be raised through the issuance of “Alzheimer’s bonds.”
To support his position of increased investment in science, Gingrich cited the approximate $10 billion expense of AIDS research saving $1.4 trillion in government expense.
Increasing American ownership of the scientific and medical frontiers, reducing bureaucracy within health agencies, and increasing the flow of information through technological communication featured prominently in Gingrich’s vision of a re-vamped healthcare system.