Newt Gingrich
Former Speaker of the House

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Learn from the mammogram study

Last month, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released their study on the effectiveness of mammograms, suggesting that women begin regular screenings at age 50 as opposed to age 40 and every two years rather than every year, the American people fired back.

Why? Because they saw what the consequences could be if government has control over our health-care decisions.

The study was released at a time when members of Congress are attempting to fundamentally overhaul the country's health-care system. The most critical test of any reform proposal is whether it will empower individuals or impose upon them. It is a fact that the leading bills in Congress would increase the power of government. H.R. 3962, which passed the House in early November, creates 118 new boards, bureaucracies, commissions, and programs. That's 118 more bureaucratic agencies standing in the way of individuals and their health care.

How these kinds of "recommendations" could compromise the health of citizens is clear. Just look at California and how it responded to the Task Force study. The North County Times reported that the California Health and Human Services Agency will restrict breast cancer screening for Medicaid recipients in line with the Task Force recommendations. The department said the changes were made due to budget woes and not medical recommendations.

This is exactly why giving government agencies the power to decide what care an individual can receive and when they can receive it should be opposed at all costs.

By Newt Gingrich  |  December 8, 2009; 1:25 PM ET  | Category:  Health Care Reform Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: A good start | Next: Listen to the people


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To the comment that we lag the world in healthcare outcomes, I suggest you do a web search for breast cancer survivability statistics. We lead the world in reducing breast cancer deaths (and prostate cancer). It is ironic that the implementation of one of the House heathcare reform bill provisions, even before it becomes law, will start to cut down that lead.

If the healthcare reform bill mandated birth control for teenagers, mandated exercise for all, put a high tax on high calorie foods, banned smoking, legalized drugs, and mandated public transportation in metropolitan areas, then our longevity might become equal to other countries. I don't see anything that has been outlined in the House bill that would actually improve our healthcare outcomes. Who knows about the senate bill, who has actually seen it.

Programs already exist to make sure people without insurance have access to preventive medicine. No amount of federal money is going to convince the obese patient to lose weight or exercise. So good luck on the idea that increasing healthcare access will improve our population longevity. The healthcare system is not the sole determinant of the longevity of the population.

Posted by: 4makingitsimple | December 21, 2009 1:11 AM
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The vast majority of doctors do not want either insurance companies or bureaucrats weighing in on decisions that should be made by the empowered patient being properly informed by the healthcare provider. People really don't want 'universal insurance', they want affordable healthcare. They don't want the bureaucrat declining the colonoscopy in a symptomatic patient under the age of 50, as occurred in the VA system. They don't want doctors who have never been involved in breast cancer healthcare delivery deciding that 1 in 1904 saved is not justified when considering the pain and anxiety induced by the screening process (that is a decision left to the empowered patient). But to the government it is acceptable (at least until there is a public outcry). Unfortunately, the press has misinformed the public (the USPSTF was better about educating the public than the press reporting). The scientific evidence supports that the most effective screening strategy for screening breast cancer is annual mammography beginning at age 40 (this saves the most lives according to the USPSTF). The USPSTF selected the most efficient screening strategy, 80% of the reduction in breast cancer mortality can be achieved by screening on a biennial basis from age 50 to 75 (with a 50% reduction in anxiety and pain). So for the price of more dying from breast cancer, we will reduce pain and anxiety by 50% ??? The USPSTF recommendations will not change whether a woman can have an annual mammogram beginning at age 40, but it will affect whether government programs and private insurance will cover the cost. In addition to the medicare/medicaid program in California, there are other smaller programs that give government support to low income women without insurance that have adopted the USPSTF guidelines.

The second lesson of the mammogram screening debate is how much the press distorts what is science or evidence based medicine, and what are value judgements made by the scientific advisory panel. The press did a very poor job on reporting the task force findings. Many seemed to think the revision of the guidelines was due to no benefit, radiation risks, or overdiagnosis. It was simply the calculation that we would have to screen 1904 women aged 49 to 50 for ten years to save one life. The amount of anxiety and discomfort induced by that amount of screening was not justified by the small chance of saving a life... a value judgment by the panel. Of course, if scientists make the value judgments, and the press pronounces it science based medicine, then the politicians don't have to face the political heat for healthcare rationing.

Posted by: 4makingitsimple | December 21, 2009 12:39 AM
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have you ever noticed that the people trying to tell women what to do with their bodies - be it mammograms, abortions, self
checkups.... it's always old white men who are doing the telling.
Where are the women politicians, commentators, doctors and other spokespersons for women?
Posted by: stephenrhymer | December 11, 2009 4:40 PM
I don't know if you have noticed this but it does tend to be men (though not exclusively men) who speak out on MOST issues. Do we object to Al Gore speaking about Global warming because he is a man? Did we object to Einstein speaking about relativity because he was a man? Do we object to Obama speaking about Afghanistan because he is a man? If a subject is important then men WILL speak about it. To say that men should not speak about breast cancer implies that breast cancer is not important. It isn't?

Of course I disagree with Newt, he is wrong. But not because he is a man or he is white. That would be racist or sexist on my part. I disagree because he is wrong. THAT is the right reason, not his race or gender.

As for abortion, it is normal for a foetus to have TWO parents. A foetus is not like a kidney, "just a part" of a woman's body, or like her hair which she can cut or dye according to her wishes. It is a living being, and killing it is a heavy decision, quite different from painting your nails or getting a haircut.

Posted by: rohitcuny | December 12, 2009 8:36 AM
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Clearly, Newt, you have touched a raw nerve with the KoolAde-guzzling, Soros-funded, Dummycr*ps. It doesn't take a genius (something no one ever accused the loony-lefties of) to understand that cutting funds for Medicare while at the same time radically increasing the number of folks enrolled in this system will mean radical rationing. And with the beancounters in the government bureaucracy determining just how much medical care grandma is entitled to under their "cost-effective formula", it is clear that obummer and his fascist cabal are determined to rid the USA of any and all persons with a historical memory of freedom and with a solid voting record - - leaving them with the youthful products of a corrupt 'educational' (read indoctrination) system).
These Dummycr*ts posting here are obviously either demented, corrupt or both. Ignore them and keep on sounding the alarm.

Posted by: segeny | December 11, 2009 10:29 PM
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newt, you're a real freaking idiot -- did you get your PhD online...what website did you buy it from?

For starters, the reason why healthcare is so jacked right now is because of congressment and buffons like newt that put corporate interests before their constituents.

it amazes me how these neanderthals use the terms "defensive medicine" and "junk lawsuits" like they are talking about football.

the only doctors and hospitals that practice "defensive medicine" are the incompetent and inept ones.

instead of using malpractice insurance as the means for getting rid of the medical professionals that should be selling used cars or flipping burgers at mcconalds -- why not have ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REVIEWS... like in every other profession?

Newt, if truck drivers and airline pilots can only drive/fly 8-10 hours a day -- WHY ARE DOCTORS ALLOWED TO PERFORM VERY DANGEROUS SURGERY... for more than 18-24 hours at a time? and WHY DO HOSPITALS MANDATE INTERNS AND RESIDENTS (who are nothing more than trainees) -- pull shifts for 24 or more hours at a time with little or no sleep? These "trainees" treat patients unsupervised a good majority of the time.

Newt, you have your head so far up your *ass* you can't see daylight... you don't know your *ass* from first base. Why don't you do volunteer work on a regular basis at a homeless shelter in LA, Detroit, or NYC -- and then write about it.

Posted by: FranknErnest | December 11, 2009 9:55 PM
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We lag the modern world in health care outcomes.
We lag the modern world in education outcomes.
We lag the world in basic science.
We lead the world in murders, obesity, incarcerations.
I fail to understand why any American would not want to correct these problems, starting now.
I'm afraid too large a portion of American society will continue to hold us back from restoring our leadership in the world.

Posted by: paulco | December 11, 2009 9:44 PM
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I think I see the true motivation of the rabid right wing. They believe people should have no absolute "right" to health care. Those who have the means get. Those who don't won't. It is God's Will. It is also Newt's Will. Were the government to replace health insurance companies as a Single Payer, the Scientific Method probably would be used to justify payment for certain treatments and protocols. For example, a 90-year-old with end-stage renal disease falls and breaks her hip. Shall Medicare, or shall Medicare not, pay to replace her hip joint? She'll be dead in six months or less, regardless. Currently the dreaded insurance companies have secret rules that become apparent only when treatment is sought and denied. Under a Government program, it would be less easy to hide the rationale. Of course, under a Government program, less would be spent trying to ferret out the last dime of deniable coverage so the CEO can get his "well-deserved" bonus. More could be spent on actual health care. And, anyway, Obama is fully invested in health insurance reform. Should Republicans manage to sustain the status quo, strictly for political reasons, blame will not accrue to Republicans, supposedly, but to the promise maker who failed to deliver.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | December 11, 2009 9:27 PM
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I suppose we are to trust the health insurance companies -- private industry -- instead of the government, as inefficient as the latter can be? The insurance companies are not profit-oriented, and are looking out instead for our best interests (and they would never, ever, award themselves excessive compensation while denying their clients medical care)? So we'll be well taken care of, safe? Right. I have swamp land in Florida to sell. I honestly believe in the free market -- I would LIKE to -- but I see very little redeeming value in it right now to trust my family's well-being to private industry interests. Sorry Newt.

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | December 11, 2009 9:02 PM
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Nwt you and DICK both SHUT UP sick of hearing your LIES.

Posted by: boorah | December 11, 2009 8:34 PM
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Alex511, although some cancers are contagious, your former coworker probably didn't "contract" breast cancer. If you're going to nitpick, maybe be a little more accurate yourself.

Posted by: coliver6285 | December 11, 2009 8:05 PM
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Newtie knows how dumb the average person is -- just one or two points dumber than he is.

He's making a living off the "dumber than me" business model. We should appreciate his skill in exploiting the stupid.

Posted by: barferio | December 11, 2009 8:04 PM
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How ironic that Newt the Boob pontificates on the subject of boobs. Looks like he got his marching orders straight from the Insurance Industry's headquarters central.

Posted by: Jerryvov | December 11, 2009 5:21 PM
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Was the study incorrectly done? Does Gingrich question the results of the study? maybe he disagrees with method used in the study? If not, what are his objections? If the study showed no benefits of mammogram to women before 50, why continue to do so? Just for sake of spending money? In this case, why not start mammograms at 20, or, let's be bold at 15? It will allow you to feel good, never mind that it will not get you healthier.

Posted by: yulkako | December 11, 2009 5:20 PM
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So what's his point? If medical science suggests 50 years old and every 2 years are the right numbers why waste money on more than that? I love how these righties suddenly have all these great health care ideas after they've controlled the White house for 20 of the last 29 years.... Sheesh! Go back to the Contract on America!

Posted by: tjconnor | December 11, 2009 5:20 PM
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Isn't this the same Newt Gingrich who walked out on his first wife while she was hospitalized with cancer? What woman wants a man like that speaking for them? He seems to be a self-serving fellow.

Posted by: go4it | December 11, 2009 4:44 PM
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have you ever noticed that the people trying to tell women what to do with their bodies - be it mammograms, abortions, self
checkups.... it's always old white men who are doing the telling.

Where are the women politicians, commentators, doctors and other spokespersons for women?

Posted by: stephenrhymer | December 11, 2009 4:40 PM
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Speaking of boobs....I don't want a bunch of old, white, republicans making decisions/laws that affect "my" body.

Posted by: kmldc1 | December 11, 2009 4:32 PM
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The Gingrich health transformation plan: ditch your hospitalized wife for a healthy woman. Transformed his life.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 11, 2009 4:13 PM
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fr akmzrazor:

>...The tests have been done so many times that I am sure they can be performed by the most junior and least expensive of Medical Techs just by reading a manual....

NOT true at all. The breast has to be positioned just right in order to cause the least discomfort possible and still get a good picture. I used to work with a 65-plus woman quite a long time ago who'd never had a mammogram because some idiot told her that they "hurt". Another one refused to do it for the same reason, and surprise, she contracted breast cancer. NOW she's fairly regularly screened.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 11, 2009 3:39 PM
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as usual, Newt twists the wrong facts to reach the wrong conclusion. health reform has nothing to do with entities that attempt to set guidelines. we desperately need evidence based guidelines to eliminate care that is dictated now by money, not science. the reaction to the new guidelines was itself more political than scientific. the fact is that the science shows that for some women at some ages, the risks of getting cancer from the mammogram were running pretty close to the risk of a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. Were I a woman, I would want my doctor to consider that before giving me advice. I might not take it, but I would want my doc to have the latest thinking before advising me.

Posted by: JoeT1 | December 11, 2009 3:21 PM
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I agree and disagree. But my biggest question is: Why the hecht does a test that uses the same basic technology that has existed for 4 decades still cost so darn much? Technology gets cheaper over time. The tests have been done so many times that I am sure they can be performed by the most junior and least expensive of Medical Techs just by reading a manual. So why does it still cost so much? Answer that and I am sure you will get much closer to the root causes of rising healthcare costs. If the answer is the supply and demand of healthcare workers, then you can kill two birds with one stone. Create jobs and lower the cost of healthcare for all americans.

Posted by: akmzrazor | December 11, 2009 2:30 PM
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The people fired back because they saw the consequences of delaying tests which often save lives. It has nothing to do with their perception of the consequences of government regulation.

This is yet another attempt by conservative Republicans to undermine the very government that they want to to someday run again. For America's sake, I hope that doesn't happen for a very long time.

Posted by: dhenken1 | December 11, 2009 2:28 PM
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Not quite accurate, but nice try Newt. The study was done by a task force, one that the government has been using since 1984 in researching healthcare.

Task forces are used by corporate America, as well. What if say United Healthcare had commissioned the study? Would they have changed their coverage? The good thing is that the study was done, it showed some people who get the tests don't need them and others do. It had nothing to do with a government takeover of healthcare.

Posted by: jjj141 | December 11, 2009 2:28 PM
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Very sick and dishonest logic. If Americans can't live with reasonable limits to UNNECESSARY tests, there is no hope of fixing our bloated, corrupt health care system. Newt you know that you demagoging this one big time. Hitler and Stalin both come to mind with their "Big Lie" theory.

Posted by: walden1 | December 11, 2009 1:48 PM
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You have it half right....and half very wrong. It is precisely because of "government" guidelines that lives were saved. Had the "govenment" not influenced early detection, self-examination and aggressive treatment, how many lives would have been lost? I didn't see private enterprise, Insurance companies, even health care institutions, step up to issue equally effective guidelines over the last 10 years, did you?

Bad guidelines issued by the "government" are monumentally bad for public health, and for social perceptions of both government and healthcare. And when bad policy is allowed to go unchecked we are all in trouble. The lashback over this terrible "government" recomendation is proof that the importance of good, reasoned, transparent and accountable policy is essential and effective.

It is just like all "govenment"...when it fails to perform...we - the people - react. Just ask the authors of the "Contract with America". A perfect system, don't ya think?


Posted by: OlivesDad | December 9, 2009 1:00 PM
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