Left to Right: Sen. Clinton, Gingrich Meet in Middle on Health Reforms

July 24, 2005

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who as first lady pushed a health care policy overhaul in the early 1990s, found Republican lawmaker Newt Gingrich as her adamant foe. But now the two are working together to promote health care reforms for the government and private insurance companies.

Democrat Clinton, who is now a senator for New York, and Gingrich, who has since left Congress, said last week they want to put partisanship aside to pull together a bipartisan coalition for cost-saving and lifesaving health care legislation.

“My hope and my sense is, we may be at the end of a 40-year cycle of bitterness,” said Gingrich, who led the successful 1994 Republican effort to take control of the House of Representatives.

The political odd couple first spoke out publicly together in May in calling for legislation that would modernize health records into databanks that could be accessed quickly in an emergency. Since that eyebrow-raising effort, the pair has found some other areas of agreement on health care, an issue that has traditionally driven Republicans and Democrats far apart.

“We have the same instinct, that, you know, I’ve spent enough of my life fighting and it would be nice to spend some time constructing and I think there’s a feeling in the country that’s very similar,” Gingrich said at a “Ceasefire on Health Care” event sponsored by the drug company Pfizer Inc. and American University.

Gingrich said he now supports a key proposal that that Clinton had offered more than a decade ago, when she proposed creating a single system for medical billing so that all insurers and providers would be able to use similar procedures and save time.

She compared it to the bar codes on food packages that allow grocery store clerks to quickly scan them for a price.

“I thought this was a no-brainer,” Clinton said ruefully. “This one thing ignited an incredible reaction.”

Even while calling for bipartisan effort, Gingrich said his conservative beliefs have not moved drastically.

“I’m not quite sure I’m ready to join the mushy middle,” he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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