How Gingrich Helped Medicare Part D Get Passed

by Katrina Trinko

Since he rose to the top of the polls, there’s been a lot of chatter about Newt Gingrich’s support for Medicare Part D. Politico’s Jonathan Allen reports on how Gingrich not only supported Part D, but was crucial in persuading Republicans still in office to back the bill:

Newt Gingrich played the role of political godfather in pushing the Medicare prescription drug benefit into law, returning to Capitol Hill in November 2003 to deliver a pivotal speech that turned some conservative skeptics into believers.

Three days before the clock started on what would be an excruciating and historic three-hour floor vote, Republicans huddled in a House office building committee room to hear their former speaker’s vision of a modernized Medicare plan that would offer prescription drugs for seniors while subsidizing Medicare Advantage and introducing health savings accounts aimed at giving conservatives a reason — any reason — to expand the bastion of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. …

But it was the hard-right element in the Republican Party that Gingrich focused on in his speech that day, arguing that a handful of reform-minded provisions in the bill would create an opportunity to rewrite the whole Medicare program later. Gingrich, by then an elder statesman, turned out to be the ideal cleanup hitter.

“Newt was critical to the passage of Medicare Part D,” recalls John Feehery, who was Speaker Dennis Hastert’s chief spokesman at the time. The speech “was very powerful,” Feehery said.

Gingrich continues to defend Part D now. In a November interview with New Hampshire’s Union Leader, Gingrich said of why he supported it that, “It created health savings accounts and it created Medicare Advantage. … First of all, I think to have Medicare program that says we’ll give you open heart surgery, but not Lipitor, is very destructive. You have to modernize the system.”

The Corner

The one and only.