As Campaign Ramps Up, Gingrich Plays Down Support for Health IT

Now that he is a frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is downplaying his previous support for health IT adoption, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/15).

History of Supporting Health IT

During the George W. Bush administration, Gingrich worked with former CMS administrator Mark McClellan and former National Coordinator for Health IT David Brailer on federal efforts to promote health IT, according to the New York Times (Rutenberg/McIntire, New York Times, 12/16).

Gingrich also worked with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to co-author the forward of a book titled, "Paper Kills 2.0," which gives examples of how federal funds for health IT could be used in pilot projects to improve health care (Rowland, Boston Globe, 12/16).

Shortly before the passage of the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, Gingrich criticized the legislation as a "big politician, big bureaucracy, pork-laden bill." However, at the same time, Gingrich praised a provision of the stimulus package that allocated $19 billion to promote the use of health IT. He said, "I am delighted that President Obama has picked this as a key part of the stimulus package."

Under the stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

After the passage of the stimulus package, Gingrich's consulting firm -- the Center for Health Transformation -- teamed up companies like Allscripts and Microsoft for an "EHR Stimulus Tour" that traveled the country encouraging physicians and hospitals to adopt EHRs to secure federal incentive payments (New York Times, 12/16).

David Blumenthal -- who served as National Coordinator for Health IT during the first two years of the Obama administration -- said that Gingrich "has been a strong, consistent supporter of health information technology as a foundational solution to our health care problems," adding, "On this particular issue, I think he has been a leader" (Boston Globe, 12/16).

Campaign Plays Down Health IT Support

On Wednesday, Gingrich unveiled a new brain science initiative that does not include any mention of EHRs, even though the technology was a major component of the brain science proposals he discussed over the summer.

In August, Gingrich said he aimed to bolster brain science research in part by modernizing FDA through the use of EHRs. Gingrich said EHRs would allow for "much faster [FDA] approval times because you can monitor in real time everyone who uses the drug. And if you start getting inappropriate responses, you can change within weeks" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/15).

According to the Times, Gingrich now is working to appeal to Republican voters who are wary of big-government spending and federal involvement in health care (New York Times, 12/16).

Michael Cannon -- director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute -- said, "Newt Gingrich's approach to health care has never been free market," adding, "A colleague of mine has joked that Newt has been in favor of socialized medicine, as long as it uses computers" (Boston Globe, 12/16).

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