Tag: Newt Gingrich

What Would Newt Do? Making Value-Based Care Victorious


Health care’s much-trumpeted transition “from volume to value” care remains more tepid than transformational, according to a new study. Looking at 22 health systems nationwide, RAND researchers found that compensation continues to be “dominated by volume-based incentives designed to maximize health systems revenue.”

Although confusing payment schemes bear part of the blame, there are deeper problems that appeared in sharp relief when I chanced upon a long-ago PowerPoint from a prominent political strategist and early advocate of “data-driven reimbursement.” 

I refer, of course, to Newt Gingrich. His recommendations from 2007 about designing transformational change in health care provide a perspective that remains useful today in addressing what is ultimately a political problem. Frankly, value-based care (VBC) advocates perform dismally.

Going Along the Gingrich Roadmap

Back in 2004, Gingrich and I both served on a commission seeking to improve the quality of long-term care. This was during a period when a neutered Newt, out of power, was undergoing a political makeover by championing bipartisan health reform ideas such as electronic health records (EHRs) and evidence-based care. He even shared an award from NCQA with then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. 

What Gingrich also shared, often, were his thoughts about what was necessary to drive the kind of sweeping alteration of the status quo represented by his leading Republicans to their first House majority in decades. Reviewing that roadmap, it’s not surprising that VBC advocates remain far from their destination.

The journey starts off in the right direction, with VBC advocates following Gingrich’s advice to “focus on large changes.” Trying to upend the way physicians have been paid since Hippocrates made his first house call certainly qualifies. But ambition has to be articulated as part of an organizing and attractive vision.

In 1997, in a book called Demanding Medical Excellence, I summarized the urgency of what we now call value-based care this way: 

Tens of thousands of patients have died or been injured years after year because readily available information was not used – and is not being used today – to guide their care….(The health care delivery system) must be restructured according to evidence-based medical practice, regular assessment of the quality of care, and accountability.

In a similar vein, Gingrich in 2007 emphasized “a clear and compelling vision for quality” that would appeal to patients and medical professionals by promising safe care (no preventable deaths or injuries); consistent clinical excellence (appropriate and effective evidence-based care); and clinicians and staff partnering with patients.

Language That’s Bureaucratic, Not Bold

In contrast, the coalition sponsoring last month’s Health Care Value Week positioned transformation as a series of “models” addressing a bureaucratic checklist of health care “challenges.” The same type of language is used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Repealing Laws By Defunding Them

Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Newt Gingrich and I debated whether House Republicans in should be able to repeal a law — in this case, the Affordable Care Act — by de-funding it. Here’s the essence:

GINGRICH: Under our constitutional system, going all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215, the people’s house is allowed to say to the king we ain’t giving you money.

REICH: Sorry, under our constitutional system you’re not allowed to risk the entire system of government to get your way.

Had we had more time I would have explained to the former Speaker something he surely already knows: The Affordable Care Act was duly enacted by a majority of both houses of Congress, signed into law by the President, and even upheld by the Supreme Court.

The Constitution of the United States does not allow a majority of the House of Representatives to repeal the law of the land by de-funding it (and threatening to close the entire government, or default on the nation’s full faith and credit, if the Senate and the President don’t come around).

If that were permissible, no law on the books would be safe. A majority of the House could get rid of unemployment insurance, federal aid to education, Social Security, Medicare, or any other law they didn’t like merely by deciding not to fund them.

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Gingrich Adviser Urges States to Implement ObamaCare

State after state is refusing to implement ObamaCare’s health insurance Exchanges. Republican David Merritt hopes they will “grudgingly decide” to change their minds.

Merritt is a health care adviser to Newt Gingrich. He is also a senior adviser at Leavitt Partners. Leavitt Partners is a consulting firm that makes money by helping states implement ObamaCare. In the Daily Caller, Merritt tries to persuade state officials to help implement a law they oppose.

Merritt begins his pro-Exchange argument like so: “Imagine that you’re being required to buy a car.” Would you rather choose that car yourself, he asks, or would you rather the dealer choose the car? Hmm, good question. I choose Option C: wring the neck of whoever is requiring me to buy a car. Not Merritt, though. He counsels states to choose their own “car.”

There are so many problems with this analogy that it’s hard to list them all. First, as Merritt essentially admits, states would be able to choose from such a narrow range of “cars” that it scarcely makes a difference whether they pick their own or let the feds do it. Second, states would only have to pay for their “car” if they pick it out themselves; otherwise, the feds pay for it. So Merritt is literally urging states to volunteer to pay for a “car” when the feds would otherwise hand them one for free. Finally, he says states should select their own “car” even though “no one knows what a federal [car] would look like.” How can Merritt counsel states to choose Option A if he admits he doesn’t even know what Option B is? Wouldn’t the prudent course be to wait and see? Especially since the Obama administration admits it doesn’t have the money to create Exchanges itself?

Merritt’s hypotheticals don’t make his point, either:

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Newt And The Health Wonks: A Tale of Lust And Power

When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, I found myself singing a few bars from Night Moves, Bob Seger’s hard-driving tribute to teenage hormones: “I used her, she used me/But neither one cared./We were gettin’ our share.”

No, this isn’t one more commentary on the Georgia Republican’s checkered marital past. I’m referring to a different relationship, the one between Gingrich and the health policy community. A critical component of the climb back to prominence for a man who inspired nearly as much distrust in his own party as in the opposition was proving he could work harmoniously with those holding differing views on an important policy issue — how to reform U.S. health care.

Gingrich succeeded so well that some of the policy recommendations he was touting just a few years ago bear a close resemblance to Obama administration actions that Gingrich now denounces as leading us to “a centralized health care dictatorship.”

The romance between Gingrich and the health wonks, and Gingrich’s makeover as a leader with ideas as much substantive as political, began after the appearance of his 2003 book, Saving Lives & Saving Money. The book gave credibility and visibility to a set of ideas being talked about in the health policy world about using information technology to improve medical care.Continue reading…