Media let Gingrich take money from insurers, slam policies they oppose

Several media figures and outlets have provided Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich a forum to discuss his opposition to the inclusion of a public option and increased insurance regulations in health care reform legislation. But those media have not noted that that his Center for Health Transformation -- a for-profit entity that Gingrich founded and reportedly profits from -- receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a financial interest in preventing the implementation of those policies.

Gingrich's company profits from membership fees from insurance companies

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, while 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.

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].

Media host Gingrich to discuss health care without mentioning his conflict of interest

Gingrich in The Washington Examiner: "[W]e're not buying the argument that 'competition' from government-run health insurance will fix things." In his August 21 Washington Examiner column, Gingrich stated that “Americans have a lot to be dissatisfied with when it comes to private health insurance, but we're not buying the argument that 'competition' from government-run health insurance will fix things.” The Examiner noted that Gingrich “is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation,” but did not explain that the group receives fees from health insurance companies.

Gingrich in LAT, AJC: Under health care reform bills, “You will get new bureaucracies, more regulation, more complexity.” In an op-ed that appeared in the August 20 edition of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the August 16 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Gingrich wrote that it “is a fact that the leading bills in Congress would increase the power of government and decrease individual freedom. You cannot spend an additional $1 trillion of taxpayer money and reduce the role of government. You will get new bureaucracies, more regulation, more complexity. That means you will have less control of your healthcare.” Later in the op-ed, Gingrich wrote that currently, “individuals and employers usually make these coverage decisions. This legislation creates a new federal Health Benefits Advisory Committee that would decide instead” and that the “fear of government rationing is based on the premise that once government has such power, especially the ability to control what is covered by your private insurance policy, it also has the power to deny and restrict.” Both papers identified Gingrich as “the founder of the Center for Health Transformation,” but did not explain that the group receives fees from health insurance companies.

Gingrich on This Week: "[G]overnment option" will resemble “disaster” of Indian health service, “corrupt” Medicare. On ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Gingrich asserted:

I think people are very concerned when you start talking about cost controls, that a bureaucracy -- we don't -- you're asking us to trust the government. Now, I'm not talking about the Obama administration. I'm talking about the government. You're asking us to decide that we believe that the government is to be trusted.

We know people who have said routinely, well, you're going to have to make decisions. You're going to have to decide. Communal standards, historically, is a very dangerous concept.

He later asserted that “the government option we're talking about - let's look at where Government runs the health system entirely. The Indian health service is a disaster. Medicare is so corrupt and run so badly, we just published a book at the Center For Health Transformation called 'Stop Paying the Crooks' because our estimate is that government fraud between Medicaid and Medicare is between $70 billion and $120 billion a year.” Neither Gingrich nor Stephanopoulos explained how the center is funded. [This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 8/9/09, from the Nexis database]

Gingrich on Your World: Public option is a “disastrous plan.” Gingrich told Your World guest host Stuart Varney: “At the Center for Health Transformation, we're launching a petition drive to demand that if there's a public option every member of the House and Senate must belong to it that can be their only health plan. We think if they want to impose in the country that kind of disastrous plan, they ought to take the medicine first.” Neither Gingrich nor Varney mentioned the center's stake in reform. [Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/9/09, from Nexis]

Gingrich on GMA: “I don't want the government to be the primary operator of the health system.” In an interview with ABC chief medical editor Tim Johnson about his view of health care reform, Gingrich asserted: “I don't want the government to be the primary operator of the health system,” and that “the language they draft for the public plan will give it huge advantages over the private sector, or it won't work.” [Good Morning America, 7/1/09, from Nexis]

Gingrich on Face the Nation: Proposal includes “a government plan so the government can not only take over and run the whole system.” On CBS' Face the Nation, Gingrich asserted that in the health care proposal, there is a “health ward to ration health care so the government will decide whether or not you live, and very severe restrictions on health care, and a government plan so the government can not only take over and run the whole system. If you think the government can't run General Motors, why would you think they can run health care?” [Face the Nation, 6/7/09, from Nexis]

Gingrich on Today: Suggests Democratic proposals “put power in the bureaucracy,” not “with citizens and doctors.” Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC's Today, interviewed Gingrich, identifying him as the one “who led the successful fight against the Clinton administration's health care reform plan” and as “the founder of the for-profit Center For Health Transformation,” but did not note that the center profits by charging fees to health insurance companies. During the interview, Gingrich asserted that working with Republicans on reform would “help average Americans have health coverage in a way that did not put power in the bureaucracy, but actually put power back with citizens and doctors.” Gingrich added that “the key is, are they really willing to listen or is that just a charade behind which they already have a plan they're going to pass that will be unacceptable to most Americans?” [Today, 3/5/09, from Nexis]

Gingrich in Politico: Support for public option “collapses” once “you start describing it.” In an April 14 article, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reported that Newt 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.

Gingrich on Hannity: Reform “permanently puts power in Washington,” involves “Washington bureaucrats deciding whether or not to ration your health care.” Gingrich has repeatedly appeared on Fox News' Hannity to declare his opposition to the reform proposal without disclosing his conflict of interest. Nor has host Sean Hannity noted the conflict. For example, on August 6, Gingrich said Democrats in the House “clearly want a big-government, Washington-centered, control-over-your-life model that would, over the next 10 or 12 years, eliminate the health system as we've known it and move us to a government plan.” On July 16, he asserted that Obama's proposals “could be one of the things which both permanently puts power in Washington, takes control over your life and gives it to a bureaucrat who can ration what kind of care you get and so weakens the economy with massive taxes that we don't get any kind of real economic growth for the rest of this decade into, say, 2020.” On June 10, Gingrich asserted that this “is a big-spending, big-government, big-politician, big-bureaucracy administration. I am deeply opposed to Washington bureaucrats deciding whether or not to ration your health care or the health care of your loved ones. And I think that it's a fundamental choice for America. Do you really want to have your future and your life and your health in the hands of the Washington bureaucracy?” [Hannity, 8/6/09, 7/16/09, 6/10/09, from Nexis]