Newt Gingrich on Public Health Option: 'They Will Rig the Game'

ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson sat down with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich June 25, 2009, to discuss health care reform. The following are excerpts from the interview.

On Public vs. Private Sector in Health Care

GINGRICH: In the case of health care, if I have to choose between my doctor and a government bureaucrat, I have zero doubt which one I want. And I think that it's very important that we not allow a bureaucracy to get set up. ...

JOHNSON: But you right now, you say that you don't want the government between you and your doctor. But right now many people have the private insurance office between them and their doctor. They're arguing constantly with their insurance company about what they'll cover, what they'll pay for.

VIDEO: Newt Gingrich says government has no place in insurance industry.
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GINGRICH: Right. And in that setting, if you don't like your current insurance company, you can change insurance companies. But if you ended up with a single national health system, you wouldn't be able to change bureaucrats. And if you look at the experience in France or Canada or Great Britain, if you look at the waiting lines in Canada, where, despite three years of effort, they've not been able to shorten the waiting lines, because in fact the system doesn't work.

JOHNSON: Now, the president says, and he said last night, again, what he wants is a system or a field where there's level playing opportunity, the same rules and regulations would apply to the public option as to the private insurance companies, and then they can really compete on a level playing field. You don't think that...

GINGRICH: I guarantee you the language they draft for the public plan will give it huge advantages over the private sector or it won't work.

JOHNSON: Because?

GINGRICH: Because it won't work. And what they will do is rig the game. I mean, anybody who's watched this Congress, I mean, look what they did with Chrysler, with the 55 percent of it to the union.

I mean, anybody who's watched this Congress who believes that this Congress is going to design a fair, neutral playing field I think would be totally out of touch with reality. I think it's disingenuous on the president's part and it wouldn't work.

JOHNSON: And when the president says to the private companies, you had 30 years to prove that you can do it well and they haven't...

GINGRICH: They have it done well. And the fact is, overall, 71 percent of Americans are relatively satisfied with the health insurance.

JOHNSON: But we have 46 million uninsured.

GINGRICH: Right. And we have -- you know, that means you also have 260 million insured.

JOHNSON: Oh, no, I'm...

GINGRICH: So let's start with, OK, what have the insurance companies not done? They've not done, covered people who are unemployed.

JOHNSON: Or who have pre-existing conditions.

GINGRICH: And the 46 million, by the way, includes illegal aliens.

JOHNSON: Yes.

GINGRICH: OK?

JOHNSON: But it's a significant number no matter how you look at it.

GINGRICH: It's a significant number. OK? The question is, are there ways to solve that that don't require creating a government monopoly? And I think there are a lot of ways.

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