MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
GUY RAZ, HOST:
And I'm Guy Raz. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is back at the campaign forefront. Most recent polls show him in the top three and with that rise comes more scrutiny of how Gingrich has made a living since leaving the job of House Speaker back in 1998. Today, the Washington Post reports that a health policy think tank founded by Gingrich collected at least $37 million from health care companies. NPR's Julie Rovner reports.
JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: Gingrich's interest in health care goes back a long way, says Ed Cutler(ph), who was a health staffer to the then-speaker on Capitol Hill.
ED CUTLER: Health care's always been close to his heart and an issue where he's spent an inordinate amount of time.
ROVNER: Cutler's now a partner at the lobbying firm Clark and Weinstock. He says some of his firm's clients were contributors to Gingrich's think tank, the Center For Health Transformation, and he never heard any complaints.
CUTLER: My takeaway was always that they were happy to participate in the center and thought they were getting value added for the dollars they were investing over there.
ROVNER: So what exactly did the Center For Health Transformation want to transform? Well, moving the nation's system from paper to electronic health records to save money and reduce medical errors has long been one of Gingrich's signature issues. Here he is on NPR's TALK OF THE NATION in 2005.
NEWT GINGRICH: I think having an electronic health record will be less expensive by a big margin than having paper records, and it's a simple fact that paper kills. So I'm in favor of using modern technology to provide better services at lower cost.
ROVNER: And by the way, that's also a goal of last year's health law, the one Gingrich and every other GOP presidential candidate wants to repeal. The 2009 stimulus bill, which preceded the health law, included $19 billion to help pay to computerize health records. Then there's that requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, the one Republicans now claim is unconstitutional. Here's an exchange from a Republican debate last month between Gingrich and the man he's now battling with for first place in the polls, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
GINGRICH: So there's a lot of big government behind Romneycare, not as much as Obamacare, but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Governor Romney? Thirty seconds.
MITT ROMNEY: Actually, Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you.
GINGRICH: No, that's not true. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.
ROVNER: Indeed, wherever Gingrich got the idea, he was happy to tout it in that 2005 TALK OF THE NATION appearance. That was a year, by the way, before Romney signed the Massachusetts state law requiring most of his state's residents to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.
GINGRICH: Our goal has to be for 100 percent of the country to be in the insurance system. And so that means finding ways through tax credits and through vouchers so that every American can buy insurance including, I think, a requirement that if you're above a certain level of income, you have to either have insurance or post a bond.
ROVNER: So, while the former speaker is facing scrutiny for the millions he's earned since leaving public office, in the end it may be his words, not his money, that give voters pause. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.