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

On Primary Care and Student Loans

JOHNSON: People have a terrible time finding primary care doctors. We -- in Massachusetts now, we've got waiting lines for the initial doctor you want to see that can go up to a year. So we have problems at certain levels in this country right now. Maybe not so much with specialists, but as you know, obviously, primary care is really essential to good health care reform.

GINGRICH: That's right.

JOHNSON: And we have terrible waits for primary care doctors.

GINGRICH: Well, at the Center for Health Transformation, we're frankly working on a project to shift the payment patterns to dramatically expand the number of primary care physicians. Part of what has happened is because we've gone to a model where young people are borrowing so much money to get through medical school, that they look for the highest-paying specialty in order to pay off their student loans. And one of the things I heard the president say that I think is a very good idea is to actually have a program that if you're willing to become a primary care physician, we would forgive a large part of your loan...

JOHNSON: Loan forgiveness program.

GINGRICH: ... because you would induce a generation who don't particularly want to become specialists, but who do need to find a way economically to pay back their loans.

JOHNSON: What about doing what some other countries are doing, which is even pay for tuition, so you come out with no debt and the same effect?

GINGRICH: I think in both nursing and in medical school, we should be seriously looking at government scholarship programs that maximize getting the number of people we need into health care.

On Medicare

JOHNSON: Let me get back to the government insurance program. If you and others are so opposed to government insurance, per se, why don't you want to repeal Medicare, for example? That's a government insurance program, obviously.

GINGRICH: Well, what we did do is we've created more choices in Medicare to give people a wider range of opportunity, and there you have an effort on the part of the left even to eliminate the choices. Medicare is a good example. You know, the government already runs about 48 percent of all spending on health care. Now, if the government is so clever about reforming health care, they could create models in the 48 percent they already have. Instead, the effort is to get the other 52 percent. And if you go out and you talk to hospitals, for example, if the whole country were reimbursed at the rate of the Medi-Cal program, which is California Medicaid, virtually every hospital in the country would collapse.

On Government Regulation

JOHNSON: And I think you're outlining the kind of thinking that so many of us agree with. The question is, how do we get there to have that spread like a virus, in a sense, inside the health care system? And many would say that it's pretty hard to have happen without the government providing some guidance.And let me give you another example, if you think there's any analogous thinking here.When I get on an airplane, as you do all the time, whether it's a small airport in Peoria or Logan Airport in Boston, I'm very reassured to know that the FAA exists, that pilots are required to be trained in a very standard way...


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