Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich vs. Newt Gingrich on Comparative Effectiveness Research


If I had a time machine and could pluck people out of the past and bring them into the present, I'd stage an all-Newt Gingrich debate, in which Newts from various eras would be tasked with defending their positions against competing Newts. Perhaps some future Newt, hopefully drained of any remaining presidential ambition, could serve as moderator, which would give us an opportunity to see how he stands up to the scorn and contempt of his previous selves for anyone who dares question the Gingrich. (On the other hand, maybe it would just explode into a festival of self-congratulation.)

What might come up at such a debate? For starters, Gingrich's feelings about government-funded comparative effective research, which, as The New York Times helpfully notes, Gingrich and his health care consultancy, the Center for Health Transformation, supported and praised right up until he decided that it was a dehumanizing bureaucratic plot. Here's Gingrich in 2008:

Shortly before Mr. Obama's election in 2008, [Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and Mr. Gingrich wrote an opinion article in The Washington Times calling for a national, electronic health information system. They also called for the creation of a "comparative effectiveness institute" that could use the network to "collect and understand the best practices of the country's best providers of care." Such an institute, they wrote, "could not only educate other providers on how to improve, but also inform policy makers on how to design policy that promotes these best practices."

When President Obama proposed spending tens of billions on developing just such a system, Mr. Gingrich wrote in The New York Post in mid-January 2009, "The president-elect should be applauded for making this vital priority a key part of his economic stimulus plan."

And here's Gingrich a few years later, after he changed his mind:

When The Wall Street Journal editorial board, in January 2009, criticized the bill for creating a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, the [the Gingrich-run Center for Health Transformation] was there to defend it. The Journal argued that eventually "the comparative effectiveness outfit will start to ration care to control costs." In a statement for the center, Mr. Merritt had said that while those fears were understandable, "that argument is not currently justifiable in the specific language of the bill."

The following August, however, the coordinating council came in for added scrutiny as conservative health care opponents rallied against its creation in angry town-hall-style meetings and online, playing into fears of "death panels."Around the same, Mr. Gingrich reversed his call for a "comparative effectiveness institute."

"In our country, the road to dehumanizing, bureaucratic health care rationing," Mr. Gingrich wrote in Human Events, a conservative publication, that August, "begins with something called comparative effectiveness research."

Later, the multiple Newts could discuss his alternating support for and opposition to a health insurance mandate and his conflicting criticism and praise for Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plans. Unless, of course, it turned out more like an all-Gingrich version of this: