Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich Speak Out On Health Care, But Only Gingrich Talks About Serious Medicine
Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich wrote noteworthy articles about health care, appearing earlier today. Both made effective points about the shortcomings of Obamacare, but Palin stopped there.
By contrast, Gingrich went further--much further, in a constructive and necessary direction. The Speaker of the House-turned-better-health champion reminded his readers that the purpose of health care, and "health care policy," is health. More to the point, it's cures. And that takes heavy research--Serious Medicine.
Saving money is important, personal autonomy is important, and eliminating waste is important, but at a time when you are seriously sick, what's most important is getting treated. And the treatment that you need has to exist. That is to say, the creation of cures is not just a function of consumer demand, it's a function of long-term thinking, done years in advance. Who does such long-term thinking? It can be a variety of people and institutions, including entrepreneurs and corporations, but also philanthropists, researchers, scientists, visionaries, and various quasi-governmental folks in medical schools, research institutes, etc. And yes, obviously, the government. Think NIH, CDC, etc. That's the way we do medical R&D in America, and it's not likely to change any time soon. Gingrich is intimately familiar with those issues, which he has always emphasized, over the 30+ years of his public career.
So while Palin's piece is interesting--and it's good to hear her voice in the current debate--but when the recently resigned Alaska governor gets down to what she is for, policy-wise, she lists policy prescriptions that generally revolve around consumer choice and financing. Which is to say, she doesn't deal with Serious Medicine.
And some of her ideas--mostly from the Cato Institute playbook--are extremely controversial. For example, "Medicare vouchers." Space doesn't permit a full discussion of that idea, but I would hate to defend that idea in front of a group of senior citizens, and/or caregivers for seniors, and I suspect that 90 percent of elected Republican officials would agree.
Here's the excerpt from her WSJ article, below:
Instead of poll-driven "solutions," let's talk about real health-care reform: market-oriented, patient-centered, and result-driven. As the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon and others have argued, such policies include giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers; providing Medicare recipients with vouchers that allow them to purchase their own coverage; reforming tort laws to potentially save billions each year in wasteful spending; and changing costly state regulations to allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Rather than another top-down government plan, let's give Americans control over their own health care.
Meanwhile, Gingrich, in his piece for Human Events, went through a useful checklist of things to watch for in the Obama speech. It's all sensible stuff, although tellingly, he makes no mention of Medicare vouchers. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible, and at a time when Democrats are under fire for wanting to make radical changes in health care, this is probably not the time for Republicans to put forth radical changes, either.
And here's the most important test question of all in Gingrich's piece:
#10 Does his plan invest in science and technology in order to increase innovation and accelerate the discovery and adoption of new discoveries and breakthroughs in diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes?
Let's keep our eye on the ball, fans of Serious Medicine. Serious Medicine is not about health care financing. Serious Medicine is about going all-out against illness and incapacitation. Serious Medicine is an economic good, for sure, but even more, Serious Medicine is a life goal.
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 6:27 PM