State Leadership Conference

Health care needs to migrate from a "20th Century" model focused on treating disease to a 21st Century model devoted to promoting wellness, said Newt Gingrich, PhD, during a keynote address March 3 at APA's 2007 State Leadership Conference.

But getting there will be like traveling in a swarm of bees seeking a new location for a hive, because half the swarm is always flying in the wrong direction and slowing progress, said Gingrich, a former Republican congressman from Georgia who served as Speaker of the House from 1994 to 1998.

Deeply involved in health-care issues during his 20 years in Congress, Gingrich founded the Center for Health Transformation, a think tank devoted to studying novel solutions to the nation's health-care crisis, resigning from his seat after the Republican party lost ground in Congress in the 1998 elections.

As described by Gingrich, the current health-care system will gradually morph into an "Intelligent Health System," devoted to improving people's quality of life by tending to their mental, spiritual, physical and social needs. A "subset" of the system would treat and cure disease, he said.

He elaborated that the system would be "something that begins when an individual is healthy and tries to optimize their health, not a system that begins with an individual when they first become a patient."

According to Gingrich, the transformed system would also:

  • Focus on wellness. He envisions more programs like Silver Sneakers, a club that gathers elderly women for exercise classes in off-hours at local gyms. In addition to exercising, the women build friendships, which helps reduce depression recorded among participants.
  • Ensure competition. Noting that insurance for a family of four is three times as expensive in Maine as next door in New Hampshire, Gingrich said consumers should be able to shop for health insurance providers out of state, and find the best price.
  • Use technology and consumer choice to minimize cost of care. Gingrich described how in Florida, two state government-operated Web sites let people compare prices of prescription drugs, and the cost, outcomes and frequency of common operations. Consumers share the best prices through word of mouth, driving down prices.

--C. Munsey