Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives,
was the keynote speaker for the first day of the 2005 SHRM Employment Law and
Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 14, 2005. Gingrich
advocated for healthcare reform that maximizes the use of technology, provides
incentives for people to be healthy, and revolutionizes the healthcare delivery
Gingrich prefaced his remarks by saying that during the next 40 years, China
and India will replace the U.S. as the biggest market worldwide. In order to
remain competitive in these markets, the U.S. will have to become more flexible
and find ways to reduce expenses, including healthcare expenses.
"I believe what we will do is create a 21st century intelligent health
system" said Gingrich. By intelligent, Gingrich explained, he means a system
that is automated and makes full use of information technology. This will allow
individuals to access their own medical records on-line, as well as detailed
information about the experience of providers and their track records.
Gingrich emphasized that our current healthcare system does not work for two
reasons. First, the healthcare delivery system in the U.S. is a triangular system
where one party pays the bills, a second party receives care, and a third party
provides the care. According to Gingrich, because the party receiving the care
is not financially responsible, he or she does not take responsibility for their
healthcare choices. "No one ever washed a rental car" said Gingrich.
Second, according Gingrich, the current healthcare system in the U.S. is focused
on acute care, e.g., caring for people after they are already sick. In order
to reduce healthcare expenses, this needs to be changed to provide incentives
for individuals to stay well and manage their health. One example, according
to Gingrich, is a disease such as diabetes. Proper nutrition and lifestyle may
help individuals avoid diabetes and, if they develop the disease, managing diabetes
may prevent complications such as kidney failure that require expensive treatment.
Under our current system, many healthcare plans don't pay for blood sugar testing
supplies or provide assistance with managing the disease. However, they will
pay for kidney dialysis (acute care for kidney failure), which is very costly.
Gingrich advocated for consumer-directed health care and believes that Health
Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) should replace the traditional indemnity or HMO
plans currently in place. Workers should have financial incentives to stay healthy.
This, according to Gingrich, will make U.S. workers more responsible for their
healthcare and, in for their own health.
In his latest book, Saving Lives and Saving Money, Gingrich spells out
his plan for transforming health and healthcare in the 21st century system.