Mar 11, 2009

Gingrich takes a turn to the left

LANSING -- Someone who looked like former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich and sounded like Newt Gingrich testified before the Senate Health Policy Committee Wednesday was saying some things a liberal like me agreed with.

Its was funny hearing things like support for paying poor children to read books, paying poor pregnant teenagers to attend pre-natal appointments, giving supermarkets tax credits for locating in poor neighborhoods and improving school breakfast and lunch programs from perhaps the most partisan and conservative speaker in history, as well as one of the most ethically challenged.

He showed up 20 minutes late for the committee hearing, and I thought perhaps he wasn’t going to show up because he may have suffered a snub that no one was aware of. He shutdown the government in 1995 because he felt he was “snubbed" by President Clinton the day following his return from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Israel. The House Ethics Committee also sanctioned Gingrich to the tune $300,000 for his unethical activities.

Gingrich was also carrying on an affair with this later third wife while still married to his second wife at the same time that he was leading the Congressional investigation of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Gingrich is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation, and he was in Michigan to testify about health care. But Michigan Democratic Party Chair said it best.

“Do Republicans really expect the people of Michigan to take advice on health care from such an ethically challenged character who wanted to kill Social Security,” Brewer said. “It is a sad commentary on the pathetic state of Michigan Republicans that they have to import a dubious figure like Gingrich for advice, but I understand that their national leader Rush Limbaugh was not available.”

The state mission of the Center for Health Transformation is to “grow a movement that will accelerate the adoption of transformational health solutions and policies that create better health and more choices at lower cost.”

Despite the obvious ethical challenges, Gingrich had a few good ideas. He stressed individual wellness practices that can save millions of dollars in health care costs. Common sense says it’s cheaper to invest in prevention instead of paying for treatment. He supports physical education five days a week for students, and he thinks employers should invest in things like gym memberships for employees. He also wants to see more money spent on things like smoking cessation.

He said he has heard of one community college that will not hire anyone that smokes.

“If we allow those who are pre-diabetic to become diabetic and those who are diabetic not mange their diabetes then we will be awash in the high cost of dialysis and amputations,” he said.

Gingrich said a huge problem contributing to the high cost of health care is fraud. There is up to $120 billon of Medicaid and Medicare fraud a year.

“We are talking virtual organized crime here,” he said.

Gingrich said catching the criminals with paperwork is too slow, and that’s one reason he favors digitalizing all medical records.

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