The loose lips of Dr Gruber

Doctor Jonathan Gruber an economist who was one of ’s architects has been outed for making controversial remarks about the planning and writing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Washington Post reports:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes,” he said during a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania in October, 2013. “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 to getting the thing to pass.”

Gruber’s comments were part of a broader public conversation between him and economist Mark Pauly on the economics of health care reform. Gruber was responding to a remark by Pauly about financing transparency in the law and the politics surrounding the ACA’s individual mandate. The political process, he said, striking a critical tone, resulted in inefficiencies in the law which should be corrected.

“In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which explicitly said that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” he said. “You can’t do it politically, you just literally cannot do it. It’s not only transparent financing but also transparent spending.”

These remarks are frankly stupid and ill-conceived and have fired up Republicans even more to repeal the ACA. Also to openly admit that there was an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the non-partisan CBO is a particularly odd and damaging admission.

With King vs Burwell also due to be heard by SCOTUS in early 2015 the ACA is going to continue to be critically analysed by both the media and political opponents.

The Washington Post is also reporting on what the GOP will do next in light of Dr Gruber’s remarks.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is slated to become chairman of the powerful Senate budget committee, also threw his support behind possible hearings. In a furious gaggle with reporters, Sessions said Gruber’s comments could make dealings with the White House more difficult, days after Republican leaders said they would seek areas of common ground.

“The strategy was to hide the truth from the American people,” Sessions said. “I’m not into this post-modern world where you can say whatever you want to in order to achieve your agenda. That is a threat to the American republic… This is far deeper and more significant than the fact that he just spoke.”

Other Senate Republicans expressed similar discomfort with Gruber, but warned conservatives to not get their hopes up about repealing the health-care law while President Obama remains in office, underscoring the tonal difference between the more rabble-rousing House GOP and the new and more even-tempered Republican Senate majority.

Heading into a party luncheon on Wednesday, retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the health care law “is going to still be there regardless because we don’t have the votes” to undo it.

So yet again there is a split between the conservatives and the moderates in the Republican Party on what is the best strategy to try to get rid the ACA.

[UPDATE 14-11-14 • 10.30am]

Jake Tapper over at CNN is reporting that a fourth video with Dr Gruber talking about the ACA as emerged, he also reports on this response  from Josh Earnest, President Obama’s Press Secretary.

Asked about Gruber’s comments from a 2013 University of Pennsylvania panel in which the economist said “a lack of transparency was a huge political advantage for the President…” in selling the bill to the American people, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “the process associated with writing and passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent.”

Earnest insisted “it is Republicans who have been less than forthright and transparent about what their proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would do in terms of the choices that are available to middle-class families. I know there is at least one very prominent Republican who campaigned for reelection saying that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but yet keep in place the Affordable Care Act marketplace that has operated very successfully in his state.”

Asked about Gruber’s reference to the “stupidity of the American voter,” Earnest said, “I disagree vigorously with that assessment.”

Earnest’s comments about Republicans are a valid criticism, they’re trying to have it both ways by not actually stating what their alternatives are.

Also Bloomberg are reporting Nancy Pelosi’s comments at a press conference that she doesn’t know who Gruber is despite evidence that appears to disprove her assertions.

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