In a September 3 Politico op-ed, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich promoted medical malpractice reform and criticized current Democratic-backed health reform legislation. But in providing a forum for Gingrich to discuss health care, Politico again failed to disclose that his Center for Health Transformation -- a for-profit entity that Gingrich founded and reportedly profits from -- receives annual membership fees from several groups representing physicians that have a financial interest in promoting tort reform.
Gingrich's company profits from membership fees from groups backing tort reform
Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation receives annual membership fees from various physician 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. Groups representing physicians, in whole or in part, include the American Medical Group Association, listed as a “Premium” member, and the Medical Association of Georgia, listed as an “Associate” member, both of which support medical malpractice reform. Medical Justice Services, Inc., listed as a “Premier” member, is a physician membership organization that “offers proactive services designed to deter proponents of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as a proven strategy for successful countersuit prosecution.” Additionally, CFHT members include numerous physician and hospital network organizations, including “Charter” members Sanford Health and Sutter Health, “Platinum” member Alegent Health, “Premier” members Intermountain Healthcare, Piedmont Healthcare, and Wellstar, and “Associate” member SSM Health Care.
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 a 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].
Gingrich's Politico op-ed promoted tort reform
Gingrich pushes physician-backed tort reform, attacks Democrats, health care legislation. From his September 3 Politico op-ed, “Selling out doctors to pay off lawyers”:
Civil justice reform, which is sometimes referred to as “tort reform,” is not addressed in any health reform bill now being considered by Congress. As a matter of fact, civil justice reform is rarely being discussed even though it should be a critical component of every discussion and in every legitimate health reform bill.
Physicians understand its importance. And so do the American people. Many are beginning to wonder why it's not in any bill.
Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, at a town hall meeting in Virginia last week said, “Tort reform is not in the bill because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers. And, that is the plain and simple truth.”
Unfortunately, the “plain and simple truth” is that Democratic leaders in Congress and President Obama are selling out the doctors to pay off the trial lawyers.
We believe it's time to stop selling out the doctors to pay off the trial lawyers. The president must include civil justice reform in any successful health reform proposal.
Politico failed to disclose Gingrich's conflict of interest. Indeed, Politico only identified Gingrich as the former Speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, and identified his co-author, Wayne Oliver, as the "director of the Center's civil justice reform project." Politico at no point disclosed that Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation receives annual membership fees from several physician groups that have a financial interest in promoting medical malpractice reform.
Repeat offender: Politico previously let Gingrich promote policies favorable to his group's dues-paying members
Politico previously let Gingrich attack public plan without disclosing group's financial ties to insurance companies. In an April 14 article, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reported that Gingrich -- identified as “the former Republican House Speaker from Georgia and founder of the Center for Health Transformation” -- “argues that government intervention in the financial and auto industries will sour voters on a deep reach into health care.” Budoff Brown went on to quote Gingrich's criticisms of the inclusion of a public insurance option in a health care reform proposal, including his remark: “There is always interest in it in general -- until you start describing it, then it collapses.” But Budoff Brown did not note that the center is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies.
Other media similarly let Gingrich take money from insurers, slam policies they oppose. As Media Matters for America extensively documented, several media figures and outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Examiner, as well as NBC's Today, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos and Good Morning America, and Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto and Hannity, have given Gingrich a platform to discuss health care reform without noting his conflict of interest.