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

JOHNSON: ... and re-certified every six months, that those planes are being examined very carefully. In other words, I'm happy to have the government involved in kind of providing a certain basic standard for safety, which, of course, is missing in medicine, which is one reason we have about 100,000 medical deaths in this country every year.

Isn't there a role for government in regulation, in setting standards, in making sure that certain basic criteria are met?

GINGRICH: Sure. Look, I'm a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. I think there are a lot of roles for government to set the rules but not to run the system ... If we could pass -- as part of this health reform, if we could pass a bill that said if you, as a doctor, follow the established best practices, and you have an electronic health record that proves you followed the established best health practices, then you have a safe harbor for malpractice suits and you're not going to be subject to the kind of horrendous attacks that trial lawyers levy on doctors.

Now, there would be a win-win for the country. The doctor would be participating in best practices, they would be recorded electronically. The doctor, in return, would be protected from trial lawyers. The country would pay less for litigation and it would pay less for bad outcomes.

JOHNSON: So, is it fair for me to say you're not opposed to a strong role for government, you just don't want government insurance, per se?

GINGRICH: I don't want the government to be the primary operator of the health system. I don't want the government to try to run things. I don't think the government runs things very well.

I'd like the government to set standards, to set goals, to incentivize the right behavior. All those are positive steps the government can take.

On Taxing Employer Benefits

JOHNSON: Do you think we should tax employer health benefits as income to help pay for this?

GINGRICH: No.

JOHNSON: So you disagree with John McCain and some others on that?

GINGRICH: Yes. And I see no rational reason to go out and punish people who have worked hard and who have a good health plan and say, why don't we attack your health plan because we've decided you have too much health insurance.

JOHNSON: Except people who are self-employed do have to pay taxes.

GINGRICH: But what I would do there is I think everybody ought to have the same tax advantage. So everybody ought to have the same access to being able to buy health insurance, except if you're very poor. I think you need a tax credit rather than a tax deduction.

On Passing Health Care Reform

JOHNSON: What's your sense, as a politician, about what's going to happen by the end of this year? I mean, regardless of your own biases or interests, what do you honestly think is going to happen?

GINGRICH: I think the odds are reasonably good they can get something through. And I think that the president faces a very big decision, whether he wants to move to the left and have a Waxman/Rangel big government bill, which I think may not be able to get through the Senate, or whether he really wants to have a genuinely bipartisan approach. And I don't think it's clear yet which way they'll go.

JOHNSON: You really don't? You think it's still a wide open question?

GINGRICH: Absolutely.

JOHNSON: You don't think that within the White House and the administration, they've already pretty much made up their mind?

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