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The O’Reilly Factor: Newt Gingrich’s Three Little Things That Will Fix Healthcare

Reported by Julie - September 23, 2009 -

On Tuesday night on The O’Reilly Factor (9/22/09), Bill O’Reilly hosted Newt Gingrich to offer “three things . . . that would bring us all together . . . give me three things.” With video.

Gingrich was more than happy to oblige.

“One, we ought to have a system where you know price and quality and where you get to make choices.” Well, that’s a novel concept. Why didn’t we think of that? Oh, right -- maybe that’s the reason the healthcare reform bill is called “The America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (or H.R. 3200). Never mind – go on.

O’Reilly said encouragingly, “All the procedures and the drugs and everything should be listed somewhere on the Internet . . . because everybody has co-pays, so you bring it down.”

Uh-oh – that thing about “everybody has co-pays” . . . No, see, Bill, everybody doesn’t have a co-pay, because to have a co-pay requires one to have health insurance, and, see, everybody doesn’t have health insurance. That’s, like, one of the bigger things this healthcare reform debate is about. But hey, let’s not sweat the details – continue.

“Number two,” Gingrich pontificated, “Allow insurance companies to sell across state lines . . . If you simply . . . allow the federal employee health benefit plans to automatically be available . . . there would be 305 difference insurance choices available tomorrow morning for every small business in America.”

Not so fast. As reported by Crooks and Liars, linking to Hullabaloo, “This is something that conservatives have been begging to do for years. Even the most outgunned conservative on a talking head debate can vomit up ‘let people take their insurance across state lines to increase competition!’ It sounds reasonable. But there's a very good reason why it would quickly turn into a nightmare, and you can see it in the examples of Delaware and South Dakota. Both of those states have essentially no regulations on credit card companies. When legislation passed allowing banks to issue credit cards across state lines, some states started wildly deregulating their credit card markets in a race to the bottom. South Dakota and Delaware won. And now practically all credit cards are issued from those two states. This would be precisely what would happen to the health insurance market under these ‘health care choice compacts,’ which could go national, based on this language. Right now, insurance companies can sell their coverage ‘across state lines,’ they just have to be accountable to the laws of the state where they sell it. Under this plan, insurers would be allowed to ignore the regulations in the state where individuals purchase insurance, and only subject to the laws where they issue it.”

O’Reilly exclaimed, “That seems to be simple . . . let’s try that . . . but why won’t they do it?”

“Because it would work . . .,” Gingrich replied glibly. “ . . . If you’re a liberal and your #1 goal is to have a bigger bureaucracy with more power . . . and we come along with a market-oriented solution that actually makes Washington less important . . . .” Right, and lets insurance companies continue to dominate on whatever terms they want.

“So it’s idealogy,” O’Reilly concluded.

“Idealogy blocks it,” Gingrich agreed. “Let me give you the third example . . . Jim Frogue, who works with us at the Center [for Health Transformation], just wrote a book called, ‘Stop Paying the Crooks’ . . . we believe there’s between 70 and 120 billion dollars a year stolen in Medicare and Medicaid.” Wow, that’s sort of like what President Obama said, only he and Max Baucas said $500 billion over ten years, which is about $50 billion a year.

“But Obama’s gonna stop all that . . .,” O’Reilly said sarcastically. “He’s gonna stop it all and it’s gonna pay for everybody’s health care.” How come O’Reilly didn’t challenge Gingrich’s claim of $70 to $120 billion stolen in Medicare and Medicaid, but when President Obama claims to be able to save $50 billion a year on that same waste and fraud, O’Reilly’s got the bitchy attitude going?

“They don’t have a single provision that does that,” Gingrich argued. Not true. According to the September 2009 framework for Max Baucus’ bill, “Fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid would be reduced by a series of provisions to prevent and deter wasteful or fraudulent activity as well as assist in the identification and prosecution of such activity once it has occurred. These policies include: a new enrollment process for providers and suppliers, including an application fee; data matching and data sharing across federal health care programs; increased civil monetary penalties; increased authority to suspend payment during creditable investigations of fraud; and new procedures to disclose and repay overpayments.”

“The President will do it,” O’Reilly said snidely.

“I’m glad you believe that . . . .” Gingrich replied.

“I’m just saying what he’s saying,” O’Reilly cried.

“. . . He’s saying it but there’s nothing in the bill that does that,” Gingrich continued to argue. Would “you lie” be rude?

“But he’s gonna do it, you don’t understand,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly veered off topic, saying, “I have a beef with you on something that you like and that’s putting medical records on electronic, take them out of paper . . . because if you have anything on the internet it can be hacked into, stolen . . . downloaded . . . and I don’t want my healthcare records in the hands of anybody but my doctor.” We’ve talked before about O’Reilly’s paranoia about his medical records not being private any more. Inquiring minds want to know -- what’s in them?

Gingrich pointed out that, currently, Kaiser Permanente has 13 million electronic health records and the VA has 24 million electronic health records.

“Do you want your healthcare records though to be accessed by people who want to hurt you?” I’m not sure if O’Reilly was talking about people wanting to hurt him, personally, or whether he believes all data entry operators are out to harm all Americans. Just another Factor mystery.

Gingrich argued that there’s greater risk through paper records, to which O’Reilly responded, “Do you feel that the patient-doctor confidentiality that supposedly exists in this country is worth anything?”

Gingrich argued for strict federal laws making it a “very severe felony” to hack into electronic health records, but O’Reilly was still skeptical about the fact that someone, somewhere, might want to see his medical history badly enough to hack into the system.

“If you’re in a car wreck somewhere and you’re in a coma . . . and they save your life shouldn’t you say you’re glad we took the risk?” Gingrich asked O’Reilly.

“Shouldn’t it be optional . . . ?” O’Reilly acts as though someone working at a medical office or punching keys at a huge insurance conglomerate somewhere doesn’t already have access to his records.

“98% of the country will opt in,” Gingrich concluded. (H/T to Auntie Em for clarifying what he said.)

So Gingrich’s big 3-step plan to bring all sides together on healthcare reform is, first, what’s already out there (good prices, quality and choice); second, letting insurance companies run wild from state to state like credit card companies currently do; and third, stopping Medicare and Medicaid waste, which President Obama has only addressed umpmteen times in speeches and which, in fact, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and others are relying on to pay for about half of the reform bill.

Is throwing goofy crap out there the Republicans’ new, diabolically subtle, cleverly hidden “no?”