Strange bedfellows: Newt Gingrich join Al Sharpton, musician Al B. Sure! to oppose Medicare cutbacks

Unlikely allies Rev. Al Sharpton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reunited in common cause alongside musician Al B. Sure! in a pitch to the Biden administration, hoping to reverse a potentially harmful decision on Medicare coverage.

Having previously worked together during President Barack Obama’s administration on education reform, the Sharpton and Gingrich were brought back together after a private Medicare administrative contractor had rescinded Medicare coverage on blood tests meant to detect signs of organ rejection in transplant recipients.

United through the Health Equity in Transplantation Coalition (HETC), launched by Sharpton and executive chairman Albert Joseph Brown III, known better by his stage name “Al B. Sure!”, the duo spoke with Fox News Digital about the cause as well as the team-up with the Georgia Republican.

“We have to reverse this decision. [President] Joe Biden does have the power to reverse this. So we are asking everyone to come together in unison, to really put forth an effort to just hone in and focus on listening,” expressed Brown, himself the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant.

“I think starting with 2017, reaffirmed in 2021, Medicare provided coverage for these blood tests, and then they made the decision in like a three-week period or something of that nature,” he continued of the March 2, 2023 decision by a private contractor on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Coverage. “They just need to bring the coverage back.”

“The bottom line is we really don’t think that it’s appropriate that a private company can come along and make a decision such as that which affects so many lives,” the musician added.

Brown specifically talked to “underserved transplant communities” impacted by the decision that alternatively roped Medicare coverage with invasive biopsies less readily accessible.

“I have a brother and a sister who both had lung transplants. I have a sister-in-law who had a liver transplant,” Gingrich told Fox News Digital. “So I know firsthand the complexities and the importance of constant monitoring. All three of them, thank God, are doing very, very well.”

“The ability to monitor and catch any problems very, very early is important both to the health of the patient, but is also dramatically less expensive than having something start to go really bad and having to have a significant intervention,” furthered the former legislator. “What you want to have is a relatively convenient, inexpensive test so you can constantly monitor everybody who’s getting a transplant. Remember, there are currently 100,000 people waiting for transplants. Seventeen people die every day while on the waiting list…The goal of the transplant is to enable you to live a long and complete life.”

Gingrich spoke to the “remarkably practical” partnership with Sharpton who he praised, “He’s a funny guy and he’s a smart guy.”

“This is clearly, if you have Gingrich and Sharpton,” he said, “this has to be a bipartisan issue.”

May 7, 2009

“The fact that Newt and I are in lock-step agreement — along with a broad bipartisan group of transplant patients, physicians and members of Congress — demonstrates how extremely abhorrent these attempted rollbacks are,” Sharpton told Fox News Digital.

Brown added of Gingrich joining the cause of HETC, “I think it’s phenomenal. I applaud Newt Gingrich…I’m elated, I’m excited. I applaud both gentlemen for being able to put things aside, any differences related to political parties or anything of that nature.”

“This is not about politics,” reminded the musician who asserted, “This transplantation community is a community that has no prejudice because, you know, liver disease and things of that nature, or heart disease and kidney disease, there’s no prejudice.”

The trio is expected to make remarks Tuesday as part of a Capitol Hill press conference that will also feature New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon (R), the American Association of Kidney Patient’s Chair of Policy and Global Affairs Paul T. Conway as well as others. They aim to call on Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to “urgently intervene” and restore the coverage.

Kevin Haggerty

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