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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

After Hillary and Newt go public discussing health care reform, Newt is pushing ideas associated with the more liberal wing of politics

Last year we were all surprised to see Sen. Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich posing for photographs in the Capitol. We heard and read that they were working together on health care ideas.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes about some of the former Speaker's ideas on health reform:

Newt Gingrich has always been a politician full of big ideas and unbridled optimism, and he was dispensing plenty of both last month when he traveled back to the state he once represented in Congress to appear before a legislative study committee. State Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) is chairing the panel that is looking into ways Georgia can “transform” a healthcare system that seems to get more expensive while providing insurance coverage to fewer people each year.

His main point was that big ideas are needed to bring the healthcare system under control and he is proposing ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. “Government tries to marginally change what it’s doing and get dramatically better results,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think that’s doable. Real change requires real change.” Newt’s big idea is the conservative policy proposal that all consumers be offered a health savings account (HSA) where they would invest some of their own money to help pay for medical treatment - thus giving them an incentive to shop around for the most cost-effective healthcare from doctors and hospitals.

But he’s also pushing ideas associated with the more liberal wing of politics, such as a requirement that all school children be weighed periodically to determine if they are overweight. (Democratic legislator Stephanie Stuckey Benfield introduced a bill to do the same thing a few years ago and quickly retreated when she ran into a storm of protest). “Every adolescent kid in this state should be weighed at least once a quarter,” Gingrich said. “If you can get them to eat less and exercise more, you’ll have fewer health problems when they’re adults. You should reinstate mandatory K–12 phys ed for everybody.”

Gingrich also favors a new-age kind of approach to medicine that emphasizes wellness, prevention and early detection of medical problems as opposed to the traditional method of treating people only after they fall ill. States can save more money on healthcare with an emphasis on prevention rather than treatment, he maintained. “You should focus first on good health and only second on the money,” Gingrich said. “If I can keep people healthy, they don’t need kidney dialysis. If they don’t need kidney dialysis, they don’t mind that you’re not paying for it.”

He also advocates the idea of bringing preventive healthcare to the people rather than expecting people to seek it out themselves. “If you want a black man to start checking his blood pressure, pay his barber,” Gingrich said. “They won’t come to you.”

Gingrich was supremely confident that if the state would only heed all of these big ideas, it would be able to do such things as “take 40 percent off the cost of drugs” and provide 100 percent of its citizens with health insurance coverage.

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