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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Monday, June 22, 2015
Jonathan Gruber Had Bigger Role in Health Law, Emails Show
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who claimed the authors of ObamaCare took advantage of what he called the "stupidity of the American voter," played a much bigger role in the law's drafting than previously acknowledged, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal, citing 20,000 pages of emails sent by Gruber between January 2009 and March 2010, reported Sunday that Gruber was frequently consulted by staffers and advisers for both the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the Affordable Care Act. Among the topics that Gruber discusses in the emails are media interviews, consultations with lawmakers, and even how to publicly describe his role.
The emails were released as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of federal health insurance exchange subsidies.
The Journal reports that the officials Gruber contacted by e-mail included Peter Orszag, then the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); Jason Furman, an economic adviser to the president; and Ezekiel Emanuel, then a special adviser for health policy at OMB.
"His proximity to HHS and the White House was a whole lot tighter than they admitted," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R- Utah, chairman of the House oversight committee, told the Journal. "There’s no doubt he was a much more integral part of this than they’ve said. He put up this facade he was an arm’s length away. It was a farce."
"As has been previously reported, Mr. Gruber was a widely used economic modeler for administrations and state governments run by both parties—both before and after the Affordable Care Act was passed," HHS spokeswoman Meaghan Smith told the Journal in a statement. "These emails only echo old news."
Gruber became the center of a political storm in November 2014, when a video surfaced of him taking part in a 2013 panel discussion about ObamaCare. At one point, Gruber said the Obama administration wrote the bill "in a tortured way to make sure [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies ... 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."
At the time of the controversy, President Obama referred to Gruber as "some adviser who never worked on our staff." However, the Journal reports that Gruber's emails appear to reference at least one meeting with Obama. Furthermore, one email from Jeanne Lambrew, a top Obama health adviser, thanks Gruber for "being an integral part of getting us to this historic moment", while another message from Lambrew refers to Gruber as "our hero."
Fox News previously reported that HHS retained Gruber in March 2009 on a $95,000 contract to produce "a series of technical memoranda on the estimated changes in health insurance coverage and associated costs and impacts to the government under alternative specifications of health system reform." A second contract with HHS three months later saw Gruber receive an additional $297,600.
Gruber later apologized for his comments in a December 2014 hearing before the House Oversight Committee, calling the remarks "mean and insulting."