Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Newt Gingrich on Health Care

I attended one of Newt Gingrich's speeches a couple of years ago and was very impressed. Gingrich wasted no time on empty political rhetoric. Instead, he promptly listed what he felt should be the United States' top five priorities for the first half of the new century. He briefly explained his rationale for choosing each of the five, then proceeded to expand on a series of specific measures to address each.

I did not agree with everything he said, but the substance was stimulating - and a great deal of it was very compelling and innovative. A number of my friends attended the speech and most were quite impressed. Many of them would probably never vote for Newt Gingrich, but they were genuinely engaged by his ideas.

The purpose of this post is to draw attention to an organization Gingrich has established to address the challenge of affordable, effective and universally accessible health care.

There are many political advocates of universal health insurance today. A few, such as John Edwards, are even becoming bold enough to put forth plans with price tags and funding strategies. But there are far fewer that are willing (or able) to pursue the directly related and larger problem of exploding health care costs.

By all outward appearances, Gingrich has put together a viable organization to do just that. The think tank has produced a respectable amount of intellectual material in its short life, only a small portion of which I have reviewed. I have varying opinions on the ideas I have examined so far, but I still felt the material worth promoting on this blog as a good resource for someone wanting to learn more about the issue and cutting edge thinking on how to address our problems.

I would also like to specifically promote two short articles on the site that I found particularly interesting. The first is on Alzheimer's. The second is a bold idea to invest in a national IT infrastructure for our health care system.

Controlling health care costs is an essential pursuit. Even if we could raise the funds and political will to insure all Americans tomorrow, there is no way to sustain such a program for the next generation at current rates of health care inflation. Therefore, if we are to sustainably provide access to health care to all Americans, we must address the costs of service, not just find ways to achieve universal insurance.

Health care is easily the most complicated domestic issue in America today. There are numerous stakeholders with widely varying interests, vexing ethical issues and trade offs to weigh, and complex economics to study. Throw in the role of culture, politics and rapidly advancing science and technologies and one can see why few ideas gain traction in this space.

Still, the stakes are too high - in both lives and dollars - to kick the can down the road any longer. Whatever motivation one may presume is behind Gingrich's efforts, I applaud his actions thus far.

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