Newt's Next Revolution
The conservative firebrand has a plan to save American health care
(MONEY Magazine) – Q. Newt Gingrich, health-care wonk?
A. Yes, I'm the founder of the Center for Health Transformation. We've got a program that we believe saves lives and saves money if you do three things. Move the focus of health back to the individual. It's about you carrying a substantial part of the responsibility for your own care and choices and not about the doctor, hospital or insurance company. Then shift to wellness, prevention, as early as possible. Finally, put ourselves in a position where every transaction is electronic, not paper.
Q. You want people to be able to shop for the best deals in health care. But isn't that impossible when information on the price and effectiveness of treatments is so hard to come by?
A. You're absolutely right. We need to make sure that doctors and hospitals are required not to keep so many health-care secrets. Look at car prices. Prior to 1958, car dealers weren't required to post prices. The dealer tried to get as much as he could. In 1999, 14% of the country shopped online to buy a car, saving 2% on average. In 2003, 64% of car buyers checked prices online first. That's a revolution. Nobody told people to do that; they talked among themselves, learned to make a better deal. We can do that in health care too.
Q. Can you give me an example of how we get there?
A. I'm for "right to know" legislation in health care. Doctors and hospitals have to post prices, and they have to post results. You cannot have a true market if you don't have price and quality information. There is no reason why you can't have it.
Q. Your new book, Winning the Future, looks a lot like a presidential platform. Are you running in 2008?
A. Well, this is really more of an effort to define these big challenges for any candidate to answer. I hope that people in both parties will address these issues in a meaningful way.
Q. So are you running?
A. I don't plan to.