Surprise (for MTP viewers)! Gingrich supports subsidies to his organization's member companies

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

On Meet the Press, after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested paying for health care reform by cutting Medicare Advantage's "multibillion-dollar subsidies to health insurance companies," Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich attacked the proposed cuts as taking "hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare" and claimed that "[p]eople who are in Medicare Advantage in rural America are getting a quality of health care they never got before." But neither Gingrich nor host David Gregory noted that Gingrich reportedly profits from his position as head of the Center for Health Transformation, which receives fees from insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans.

From the September 13 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

DURBIN: The fact is, under Medicare now, we are providing multibillion-dollar subsidies to health insurance companies for something called Medicare Advantage. The health insurance companies said to us, let us run Medicare. We can show you how the government is not doing it efficiently. We can do it at a lower cost.

Guess what? It's not at a lower cost. We are subsidizing private health insurance companies to provide the Medicare benefits that we can provide at a lower cost. That has to change. That subsidy has to end. That is the kind of savings that can come back into the system to help small businesses to provide health insurance, and help those with lower incomes pay their premiums in America.

[...]

GINGRICH: First of all, listen carefully to what [Durbin] just said. He just said to the senior citizens of America, we're going to take hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare, and we're going to divert it to people who aren't senior citizens. Now, this is part of why you are seeing these town hall meetings. People who are in Medicare Advantage in rural America are getting a quality of health care they never got before. I just got an email from somebody at the Gundersen Lutheran Clinic in La Crosse. They are on Medicare Advantage. They don't want to be forced to give this up.

And it's interesting. The president says on the one hand nobody has to give up anything, but by the way, if you are a senior citizen on Medicare Advantage, we are going to take a couple hundred billion dollars away from you.

Gingrich's company receives membership fees from insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans

Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation receives annual membership fees from insurance groups. According to the center's website, members pay tiered annual membership fees, providing varying degrees of "[a]ccess to Newt Gingrich on your company's strategy," among other benefits. Insurance groups UnitedHealth Group -- the parent of UnitedHealthcare -- and WellPoint Inc. are listed as "Charter" members; BlueCross BlueShield Association is listed as a "Platinum" member; and the industry's trade association, America's Health Insurance Plans, is listed as a "Premier" member.

Insurance groups supporting the Center for Health Transformation participate in Medicare Advantage. BlueCross BlueShield and UnitedHealthcare offer Medicare Advantage plans while WellPoint Inc. has announced that it will offer them beginning in mid-November.

Gingrich has reportedly profited from his work with the center. In 2005, The New York Times described Gingrich as "a well-paid broker of ideas and influence in the field of health care policy" and reported that "[b]ase camp for Mr. Gingrich's health policy work is his Center for Health Transformation, a for-profit organization that occupies new office space overlooking K Street, the main street for Washington lobbyists." The Times also reported that the center's members "pay yearly fees of up to $200,000" [The New York Times, 1/16/05]. Further, The Washington Post reported in 2004 that according to Gingrich aide Rick Tyler, the center's for-profit status -- as opposed to being registered as a nonprofit lobbying group -- enabled Gingrich to operate " 'under the radar.' " The article further quoted "former adviser Rich Galen" saying of Gingrich: "He's making more money than he ever thought possible and doesn't have to tell everybody where it's coming from" [The Washington Post, 7/13/04].

Media have repeatedly hosted Gingrich to discuss health care without mentioning his conflict of interest

As Media Matters for America has documented, the media have continued to host Gingrich to discuss health care reform without mentioning his conflict of interest. Examples include: the Politico (on more than one occasion), The Washington Examiner, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, ABC's This Week and Good Morning America, NBC's Today, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox News' Hannity and Your World with Neil Cavuto.

From the September 13 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

GREGORY: Senator Durbin, a hard pledge to meet when you've got House legislation that already does that. It already breaks the deficit. It can't be paid for over 10 years, according to the CBO. Here's a Washington Post editorial this morning, having to do with where the details does the math work.

"When politicians start talking about paying for programs by cutting waste and abuse, you should get nervous. When they don't provide specifics -- and when the amounts under discussion are in the hundreds of billions of dollars -- you should get even more nervous."

How does this get paid for without adding to the deficit?

DURBIN: Members of Congress should take the president at his word. He will not sign a bill that adds to the deficit. He walked into the White House and inherited a $1 trillion-plus deficit from the Republican administration because they had fought a war in Iraq they didn't pay for. They gave tax breaks to the wealthy they didn't pay for. And they had a prescription drug program under Medicare they didn't pay for. This president said that's over. And members of Congress should take that seriously.

Now, I disagree with The Washington Post. The fact is, under Medicare now, we are providing multibillion-dollar subsidies to health insurance companies for something called Medicare Advantage. The health insurance companies said to us, let us run Medicare. We can show you how the government is not doing it efficiently. We can do it at a lower cost.

Guess what? It's not at a lower cost. We are subsidizing private health insurance companies to provide the Medicare benefits that we can provide at a lower cost. That has to change. That subsidy has to end. That is the kind of savings that can come back into the system to help small businesses to provide health insurance, and help those with lower incomes pay their premiums in America.

GREGORY: How does, Speaker Gingrich --

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, listen --

GREGORY: How do you keep that pledge?

GINGRICH: First of all, listen carefully to what he just said. He just said to the senior citizens of America, we're going to take hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare, and we're going to divert it to people who aren't senior citizens. Now, this is part of why you are seeing these town hall meetings. People who are in Medicare Advantage in rural America are getting a quality of health care they never got before. I just got an email from somebody at the Gundersen Lutheran Clinic in La Crosse. They are on Medicare Advantage. They don't want to be forced to give this up.

And it's interesting. The president says on the one hand nobody has to give up anything, but by the way, if you are a senior citizen on Medicare Advantage, we are going to take a couple hundred billion dollars away from you. I think this section you showed of the president is an example of why we are in the kind of debate we are in right now. I don't believe most Americans believe it's possible to have the plan he wants and not see the deficit go up -- unless he's going to propose, in the middle of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, massive tax increases, which would further deepen the recession.

HOWARD DEAN (former DNC chairman): First of all, the money is not being taken away from senior citizens; it is being taken away from the insurance companies who are responsible for a lot of the problems in the first place. Second of all, it pains me deeply to see one of the great optimists, which is Speaker Gingrich -- you are, I mean, we agree on a lot of stuff. And the thing we have in common is America can do anything. Every other democracy in the world has a health care system that covers everybody, and we don't. Of course we can do this. How ridiculous.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Newt Gingrich, David Gregory
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.