LANSING – Improving the quality and access to health care in Michigan should start with efforts to reform behavior, like a ban on smoking in the workplace and mandatory exercise for school children, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich told a state senate health policy panel this morning.
Gingrich, the former Republican congressman who now heads the Center for Health Transformation, said policymakers, the public and the media often make the mistake of viewing health care reform primarily as a financial challenge, rather than a complex mix of individual behavior, cultural influence and uneven quality.
Expanding access to health care and improving citizens’ health won’t happen by changing the financial model, he said.

“If all you do is try to figure out how to finance the current system, you’ll go broke,” Gingrich said. “The current system is stunningly wasteful.”

Gingrich appeared before the state Senate Health Policy Committee as part of a health-care related trip to Michigan.

Much of his testimony focused on the need to find ways to change behavior, especially in the state’s poorest communities. Government can encourage healthier eating and living by providing financial and tax incentives, such as providing a food stamp bonus to recipients who purchase more fruits and vegetables, he said.