Obamacare has pushed many Americans’ insurance premiums and deductibles (‘excess’ in the UK) through the roof.
Jonathan Gruber helped develop and present the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Some say he was its ‘architect’.
In 2014, both Gruber and the Obama administration denied he had much of a role in that policy, however, he gave several interviews and public speeches on the topic. It was also known in January 2010 that he had a $297,000 contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services. He was promoting Obamacare during that time. Some journalists and pundits called this a conflict of interest.
Gruber has long had an interest in economics and health care. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), he went on to obtain a PhD in the subject at Harvard University. His thesis was Changes in the Structure of Employer-Provided Health Insurance.
Gruber has been teaching economics at MIT since 1992. He took leaves of absence to work for the public sector, initially for the US Treasury in 1997 and 1998. He later worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in devising Romneycare between 2003 and 2006 when Mitt was governor. In 2008, he advised three Democratic Party campaigns. Between 2009 and 2010, he worked on Obamacare.
After that, he worked for the State of Vermont in crafting Green Mountain Care, the first state-level single-payer health care scheme. That was in 2010 and 2011. N.B.: Vermont governor Peter Shumlin cancelled Green Mountain Care in 2014, because it was too expensive!
Odd that an economist should get his numbers wrong, don’t you think?
Obamacare Facts has a page on Gruber, featuring quotes and videos.
In 2013, at a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Gruber at one point explained that it was essential for the Congressional Budget Office not to portray the Obamacare bill as a tax or a mandate, even though it is (emphases mine):
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in -– you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. And it’s the second-best argument.
Remember Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘We have to pass it to find out what’s in it’?!
The media pushed Pelosi’s lie.
Going back to Gruber’s statement, it was important to not present Obamacare as a tax, otherwise Joe and Jane Public, understandably, would have been on the blower to their legislators demanding the bill not be approved.
However, there was a more important legal reason:
It wasn’t until the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that the mandate’s fee was declared a tax. Given the status of Gruber this statement could not only be used to sway public opinion away from the Affordable Care Act, it could be used in lawsuits against the ACA moving forward …
CNN’s S E Cupp has more Gruber quotes. Her article was published in November 2014, when all his proclamations were first broadcast to the American public. That was the point when some in government began to distance themselves from him. Pelosi denied knowing who he was even though, in 2009, she had praised his work. Obama referred to him vaguely as ‘some adviser’.
In 2010, Gruber told the following to an audience at the College of the Holy Cross:
… quite frankly the American public doesn’t actually care that much about the uninsured…..What the American public cares about is costs.
Indeed they do. Shouldn’t an economist?
In 2012, at the Honors Colloquium at the University of Rhode Island he said:
It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.
Cupp was rightly aghast at Gruber’s arrogance:
For one, it was hardly a secret that the law relied on healthy people to pay in so that sick people would get coverage. Most of us — even the stupidest — know that’s how insurance works.
And just to be sure it was clear, Republicans and opponents of the law reiterated this fact ad nauseam during the public debate of the Affordable Care Act. Heck, even Obamacare supporters were insistent on explaining this point for the express purpose of getting healthy people to sign up for it. The administration spent millions on a marketing pitch to convince young, healthy millennials to invest in health insurance many didn’t appear to want.
For another, despite Gruber’s insistence that the administration maintained a necessary opacity about the law, there were plenty of warnings about its potential fundamental problems, and numerous advocacy groups, impartial economists and media outlets were steadily fact-checking the President’s rosy predictions about the law.
The point at which Gruber became unstuck on Obamacare was when he spoke with great certainty of state-specific health insurance exchanges in 2012. People who could not afford the premium would be able to apply for tax credits that the exchanges would honour. Obamacare Facts has the quote, excerpted below, then explains how wrong it all went in reality. At the time their page was published, there were three lawsuits (emphasis in the original here):
Gruber: Yeah, so these health-insurance Exchanges, you can go on ma.healthconnector.org and see ours in Massachusetts, will be these new shopping places and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it …
The problem here is that in Gruber’s opinion, and remember he helped to create the law, that if a state doesn’t set up an exchange then its citizens can’t get tax credits. Well that is exactly what three lawsuits are currently charging. Two of those lawsuits have initial rulings against citizens getting tax credits.
FACT: About 87 percent of people enrolled in ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Marketplaces receive subsidies.
When asked in November 2014, Gruber said he made a mistake. He told the New Republic:
I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake. People make mistakes. Congress made a mistake drafting the law and I made a mistake talking about it.
During this era, at this time, the federal government was trying to encourage as many states as possible to set up their exchanges. …
Breitbart wrote about the Gruber controversy in June 2015, confirming that he really was the architect of Obamacare, observing:
once again, the media eagerly helped Obama shape a painful news cycle with falsehoods, and the truth comes out literally days before the Supreme Court rules on the subsidies – too late to influence the Court, while Obama was given a clear field to bully them into protecting his health care con job again.
Cupp nailed Gruber with this:
Gruber’s misguided sense of accomplishment reflects not so much elitism as it does the arrogance of liberal “solutionism,” or the tendency of technocrats to assume they can solve complex social problems easily …
… he decided what the problem was (in this case, that healthy people were paying too little for insurance) and assumed we were all too dumb to ask any questions.
There is only one presidential candidate who promises to repeal Obamacare. You know who it is. And, if elected, he will ensure it’s done.