By Kate Nocera
Newtcare, here we come.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hates President Obama's new health care law and he's got his own plan to replace it, one that relies heavily on several controversial cost savings approaches.
But the Georgia Republican also made a pitch for saving some key programs from the budget ax, arguing against proposed reductions at the National Institutes of Health.
Gingrich, a possible presidential hopeful, predicts Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act will be repealed by April 2013 "at the latest," suggesting that the GOP can take back both the Senate and White House next year.
"When Obamacare is repealed we can't go back to a world that led us there, which was the same world that led us to Hillarycare which is why we have to have a replacement," he said in a slap at Hillary Clinton -- who once teamed with him on a plan to computerize medical records.
Gingrich's prescription for cost savings: tort reform and cutting Medicare and Medicaid fraud. He said there was an estimated $70 billion to $120 billion in fraud a year.
"And the cost of defensive medicine today is $800 billion a year.... If we fixed these two things we would have more than enough money to cover the uninsured," Gingrich said during a GOP-sponsored panel discussion on Thursday.
Gingrich differentiated himself a bit from cut-first-ask-questions-later Tea Party Republicans, saying he helped balance federal budgets in the 1990s through a combination of smart reductions and targeted funding increases to critical research agencies that help improve care and contain costs long-term, the Institute of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
Gingrich said he was "deeply opposed" to the proposed billion-dollar cuts to the NIH and while the medical center needed bureaucratic reforms, investing in research now would save incredible amounts of money in the future -- especially relating to diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Gingrich also said he fully supported block grants for states saying the "centralized bureaucracy" of Medicaid could never fully understand the needs of each state.
"There's zero doubt in my mind that the Lyndon Johnson experiment in a nationally managed bureaucracy for the poor is a total failure. We will never figure out a national solution," he said. "But if you decentralized it to the 50 states some of them are going to come up with some really good inventions."
On Medicare he said people, especially those who were well off, should be allowed to apply for a private insurance plan.
"I see no reason to trap a Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in a government-run centralized system that tells them precisely what they can pay their doctor or hospital," he said.
Gingrich was the speaker at a Congressional Health Caucus "Thought Leaders" series sponsored by Texas Republican Michael Burgess.
Gingrich said that since 1999 he's been focused on two subjects: national security and health care. Health care, he said was "ten times more complicated."
He started the Center for Health Transformation, a think-tank to produce what he calls "center-right, market-orientated" approaches to health care reform.