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Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich: Creation of Jobs Will Improve Health of West Virginia

Photo by John McCabe Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses The Health Plan’s health care symposium at Oglebay Park’s Glessner Auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

WHEELING — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich sees job creation as a key to improving the health of West Virginians.

Gingrich, now an author and senior legal adviser, was the opening speaker Wednesday at The Health Plan’s health care symposium at Oglebay Park.

“People who have a vision of being productive take better care of themselves,” he said.

Thus, he suggested that leaders “change the vision” to meet the challenge of West Virginia’s rankings, by concentrating on “the ability to create the next 100,000 jobs and the next 100,000.”

Regarding health care reform nationwide, Gingrich said, “Health care is 10 times more complicated than national security.”

Citing a need to evolve, he said the health care system is too complicated and is enormously complex because all 50 states make differing regulations.

“You have a very old system, all the way back to the 1943 decision on third-party payments,” he said.

Gingrich predicted health care is going to change toward a market-oriented system, such as the business model of Walmart or Amazon, or something between the Canadian and British models.

Reformers have to determine whether a patient is a customer or a client. For instance, in a third-party payment system, “you’re always a client,” he said, adding, “People like freedom without having to pay for it … That’s a real challenge.”

Gingrich called for reform of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, citing a need for safe sharing of information without compromising patient confidentiality. He thinks the current HIPAA system is too big and entrenched to change significantly.

Meanwhile, he sees three factors behind the opioid crisis: underestimation of opioids’ addictiveness; “really bad doctors” who wrote thousands of prescriptions as money makers and “the problem of recreational drugs.”

Decrying the legalization of marijuana, he said, “The country is crazy … Thirty years from now, we’ll realize (legalization) is just a huge detour that leads to really bad outcomes.”

As an entrepreneur, Gingrich said a set of skills is necessary for effectiveness. He shared a formula with symposium attendees of having vision, metrics, strategies, projects and tactics. He also advocated a leadership model of “listen, learn, help, lead.”

Gingrich spoke to a full house in Oglebay’s Glessner Auditorium. The Health Plan’s invited audience for the symposium, which concludes today, included plan administrators, clinicians, health service providers, insurance representatives, employee benefit managers, legislators and community leaders.

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