Jonathan Gruber is “ObamaCare’s architect” and a MIT professor. He is also the guy who made two poorly worded statements about the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t the type of story we like to cover on our site, as it is full of mind-melting juicy talking points that leave one non-the-smarter. That being said, the story is connected to a few really important aspects healthcare reform that we should be talking about, and taking a step back it’s about a man who may deserve a lot more respect than the media is slinging at him right now.

Who is Jonathan Gruber and What Does He Want With My ObamaCare?

Jonathan Gruber is an MIT economics professor who was key in creating both “Romney Care” and “ObamaCare”.  Love his work or hate it, that is no small feat for one man.  Over the years Jonathan Gruber has done a ton of smart stuff including, according to Wikipedia:

Jonathan Gruber is a professor of economics at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).  He is also the director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he is a research associate. He is an associate editor of both the Journal of Public Economics and the Journal of Health Economics.

From 2003–06 he was a key architect of Massachusetts health care reform, also known as “Romneycare”. In 2006 he became an inaugural member of the Health Connector Board, the main implementing body for that effort. In that year, he was named the 19th most powerful person in health care in the United States by Modern Healthcare magazine. During the 2008 election he was a consultant to the Clinton, Edwards and Obama presidential campaigns.

He was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine in 2005.

In 2006, Gruber received the American Society of Health Economists Inaugural Medal for the best health economist in the nation aged 40 and under.

In 2009 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association.

In 2009–10 Gruber served as a technical consultant to the Obama Administration and worked with both the administration and Congress to help craft the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as the ACA or “Obamacare”. The act was signed into law in March 2010, and Gruber has been described as an “architect”, “writer”, and “consultant” of the legislation. He was widely interviewed and quoted during the roll-out of the legislation.

In 2011 he was named “One of the Top 25 Most Innovative and Practical Thinkers of Our Time” by Slate Magazine. In both 2006 and 2012 he was rated as one of the top 100 most powerful people in health care in the United States by Modern Healthcare Magazine.

What Did Jonathan Gruber Say About ObamaCare?

Jonathan Gruber said two things that are being used sling mud at the Affordable Care Act, let’s discuss them both now:

Jonathan Gruber Says: Lack of Transparency… the Stupidity of the American Voter…

Let’s get this one out of the way first.  The quote below is from a talk Gruber gave where he was trying convey the fact that something as simple as the semantics of calling something a mandate or a tax can make or break a bill.  If you read everything he said or watch the video above you might not even catch what is wrong with this, but when the clip is taken out of context it can seem really messed up.  Just so it’s clear, the point is being taken out of context a lot right now.

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. Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.

The problem here is that the law really was passed with what are now taxes being called mandates and probably would not have passed with the mandates being called taxes.  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 as the next statement you’ll find below on subsidies already has.

Like the right to work law that limits collective bargaining, or the fact that Joe the Plumber isn’t a plumber, or when big business put initiatives on ballots that say the opposite of what people trying to vote for to confuse voters, or the President saying “if you like your plan you can keep it”, the truth about politics is that sometimes grey area marketing wins out over total qualified truth.

We have to ask ourselves: is the problem here Gruber’s choice of words, the semantics of mandates or taxes,  or the fact his poorly worded point hints at an important truth that applies to politics in general.

What Gruber Says About the Remark:

While he hasn’t publicly commented he was on MSNBC and pointed out that he was speaking off-the-cuff at an academic conference, spoke inappropriately, and regrets making those comments.  He then goes on to discuss the point he was trying to make at the time.

Jonathan Gruber Says: Subsidies are Tied to State Exchanges Used as Justification For Lawsuit

The “stupidity” statement makes a good talking point, but the Jonathan Gruber’s “subsidies” statement was actually used as part of an argument in a lawsuit that has thus far found subsidies to be illegal in 36 states.  The statement below comes from a 2012 question-and-answer session, following a lecture he gave at a non-profit research group based outside of Washington.

Questioner: You mentioned the health-information [sic] Exchanges for the states, and it is my understanding that if states don’t provide them, then the federal government will provide them for the states.

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. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.

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 it’s 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.

Regardless of who said what, we should all be focusing on the fact that losing subsidies would be a major loss for the people and a best a Pyrrhic victory for even the most hardened repealer out there. Subsidies in 36 states may be on the line, but the tax provisions that collect the revenue to fund those aren’t.

The end result of subsidies being illegal in the 36 states that could lose them would most likely be states going back and setting up their own marketplaces, this would be funded by tax dollars. This means in a worst case scenario people lose subsidies, but we all still pay for them until states set up their own marketplaces. Sure that could drive a repeal under a Republican President in 2016 or could result in states refusing to set up exchanges (many refused Medicaid expansion after-all), but at what cost? Note: that question was rhetorical, but the answer is in the tens of billions including $36 billion in subsidies.

Gruber’s Response to The Subsidies Comment:

This response was given to newrepublic:

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. …

At this time, there was also substantial uncertainty about whether the federal backstop would be ready on time for 2014. I might have been thinking that if the federal backstop wasn’t ready by 2014, and states hadn’t set up their own exchange, there was a risk that citizens couldn’t get the tax credits right away. …

But there was never any intention to literally withhold money, to withhold tax credits, from the states that didn’t take that step. That’s clear in the intent of the law and if you talk to anybody who worked on the law. My subsequent statement was just a speak-oyou know, like a typo.

There are few people who worked as closely with Obama administration and Congress as I did, and at no point was it ever even implied that there’d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange. And that was the basis of all the modeling I did, and that was the basis of any sensible analysis of this law that’s been done by any expert, left and right.

I didn’t assume every state would set up its own exchanges but I assumed that subsidies would be available in every state. It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or worked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.

What do you think?

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Jay on

I think the explanation:

“at no point was it ever even implied that there’d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange”

is inconsistent with this previous, detailed response:

“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. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.”

Bit too lengthy to be a ‘speak-o’. Regardless of which is the truth, he’s a liar. Why is he writing policy for our country?

zuzu on

Mr. Gruber and Mr. Obama knew exactly what they were doing. There was no speak-o. He was bragging about how the elite had outwitted the serfs, because the elite know what’s best for the town idiots and are going to get their agenda through in what ever manner possible. Even if it means lying. Maybe they should have thought about reading the bill before they shoved it through, because the Court is ruling that it does matter what the definition of “is” is.

Troy on

Obfuscation. The quote is very self explanatory….the short version is that if the American people were told the truth, it would never have passed. There really isn’t any other way to parse that.

We can argue if we are better off or not because of the ACA….but what Gruber said isn’t a speak-o, well, it was, he told the truth in a forum he never thought would become public. That was the speak-O.

Bill Porter on

So we paid this effete individual $400K [our money] to possibly lie, probably mis-speak and, without a doubt, insult us. He was a contributing architect and frontman for one of the worst pieces of legislation [right up there with Dred Scott and The Fugitive Slave Law] in our history and now he is exposed to the whole world for the feckless jerk he is.
He bought his infamy; now let him pay with the shreds of his reputation. See you in the unemployment line!

Jack Meoff on

Jon

I bet MIT is just thrilled to have you as an employee.

steve on

This guy wasn’t a liar in this instance. This is the quote for which he should be remembered: ‘Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.’

These are the people who are running our country, folks. And yes, the voter is stupid to vote for liars.

The owners of this site should take care to read the comments. Your propaganda isn’t working. Also, with at least two typos in your defense of Gruber, I hope you are not the same insurance execs who wrote the damned bill!

Ariel on

Your lipstick does not disguise the pig especially when we take into account the manner in which the sausage was made.

Jim G on

There are now at least three videos over more than a year in which Dr. Gruber uses very similar “off the cuff” statements. He clearly thinks that the American people really are stupid. At this point, the only stupid Americans are the ones that think that Obamacare is good.

We need to cut our losses and fix Obamacare. Unfortunately, it is the law of the land, even if it was written with deception and lies. We have seen 29 senators who voted for Obamacare voted out of office (or left before the vote could take place).

A truly bipartisan, market-driven solution should replace Obamacare.

Judy on

I have found, generally, educators seem to think everyone is “stupid” but the educator. A MIT professor is an “educator.” The body English this man gives off when viewed on video has a “elite” quality about it as if his audience is beneath him.

John Lyons on

I think this is a crock. Mr. Gruber’s arrogance and need to present himself as smarter than everyone “in the room”, even his economics associates, caught up with him and now he and you, through his response and this poorly written rebuttal, are made to look foolish with this lame explanation. There is no doubt in my mind or any reasonable person’s mind that the issue of subsidies provided only for state-based exchanges was meant to be leverage against the states to create those exchanges and that ill-advised scheme backfired, plain and simple. I can not tell you how many friends and associates are amazed by the extreme ego of Mr Gruber and the lack of consensus in having this over-complicated convoluted law.

I am not affected either way by this issue but both the creation and implementation of this law were severely flawed and now Mr. Gruber and the Administration are experiencing the effects of karma for the many lies and deceits that have been perpetuated over the past 6 years. As the saying goes “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” You can’t fool all the people….

Judy on

I felt the same way about this man but used the word “elite” as if he felt we were all beneath him because of his “superior” intellect.

Robert on

kinda hard to get around that he said he made the bill difficult to understand because if congress persons understood it they wouldn’t vote for it. That’s not an “off the cuff” remark. That’s a straight forward description of an event.
Saying “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. Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent…” No, sorry, that’s not “off the cuff” either.
I think he was just relaxed and speaking honestly.
Now, when you add in “really, really critical…” you see he is describing the essence of the emotion behind what they did. It was completely intentional to make it obscure, convoluted and as impossible to decipher as they could get it without breaking into a code. I read the first several hundred pages and knew it was a scam job.
If this had been read before being voted upon, I predict that it would have had very few votes in its favor. On that count, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Gruber.

Cynthia on

“Stupidly” I believe this is pandora’s boxes….and it is not over yet!

Edward Mitchell on

My 21 year old daughter’s insurance premium is going up by 88% from 2014 to 2015. That’s based, apparently, on aging one year from age 20 to 21. If I plug in the age 20 into this years calculator, I get a rate close to last years. But at age 21, the quote has gone up by 88%. Why is that? Obama said it was going to reduce prices or at least reduce the rate of price hikes. But seriously, 88%? (I’ve tried several health insurance plans and companies and all are up by around that amount.)

Ray W on

To those who think they know what is best for you, the ends always justify whatever means are neccessary.

Hawkeye Davis on

Who is Jonathan Gruber? When it comes to ObamaCare Jonathan Gruber is Obama’s brain.

David G55 on

An Romneys brain….. Gruber is right the looking at the ignorant hate fueled comments here.. the American people are stupid

But “Romneycare,” as Santorum and others call it, isn’t controversial in its home state. And a lot of people there don’t call it Romneycare because it took the support of a lot of other people — Democratic legislators, business leaders, insurers, hospitals and doctors, consumer groups — to get it passed.

But it’s true that Romney got the ball rolling. When I interviewed him in 2006, Romney said he got the idea from talking to Massachusetts business leaders.

“The key insight was this: People who don’t have insurance nonetheless receive health care — and it’s expensive,” Romney said.

Romney saw a state fund set up to provide free care — paid for by a growing surcharge on private insurance premiums — was spending a billion dollars a year.

“My question was, could we take that billion dollars and help the poor purchase health insurance — let them pay what they could afford? We’d subsidize what they can’t,” Romney said.

Universal Health Care: How It’s Working In Massachusetts

The percentage of uninsured people has gone down. Nearly everybody in Massachusetts has health coverage, while the rate of uninsured nationally has gone up to one in six.
Massachusetts Uninsured Rate

*This figure may be a statistical anomaly. The rates in 2009 and 2011 were close to 60 percent, the same as in 2005.
Source: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation
Access to health care has improved in Massachusetts, while emergency room visits have gone down — possibly a sign that people with insurance are more likely to have a regular source of care. Self-rated health is improving.
Massachusetts Health Responses
Source: Health Affairs
And he proposed a requirement that people buy private health insurance if they’re able. That’s the “individual mandate” that has become a curse word in Republican politics these days.

“We’re going to say, ‘Folks, if you can afford health care, then, gosh, you’d better go get it,’ ” Romney said back in 2006. ” ‘Otherwise you’re just passing on your expenses to someone else.’ That’s not Republican, that’s not Democratic, that’s not Libertarian — that’s just wrong.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/02/13/146701343/health-care-in-massachusetts-abject-failure-or-work-in-progress

Bleh on

Romneycare was for a State, not all States. I don’t care what others do in their States. I do care when the Fed Gov tries to shove crap down my throat that I don’t want and has no business doing.
That means MA can pass whatever MA wants, it does not affect me… The Fed Gov cannot, hence Dems lost the House immediately after and the Senate not long after.
Spin that how you like. Simple truth is O’care was not popular then and it isn’t now, only Congress is no longer Democrat like it was then. Many an R campaigned on it successfully. Now in 2016 the Rs have this Gold Mine to use in the General to complete the deal.

David G55 on

Actually Gruber is just telling the ugly truth… the American people are stupid, because if not one thing changed about the ACA ObamaCares, and someone has used the “Tax” word…. the Pavlovian Dogs ine electorate that are conditioned to react in negative ways would had stated drooling and growling, What the stupid America people seem to not recall is that for the last decade the Stupid American people have been complaining about the Health Care Insurance industry because it was horribly broken. It was culling anyone from the rolls who did not have employee healthcare, and got sick, it as selling low value health insurance that covered nothing scamming people left and right, it was driving sick people into bankruptcy….. yet the stupid American people can’t seem to remember all this and are now screaming because some wonk says that Politicians use words to hide how something works and have been for decades… will no stuff…. did ya just figure that out… if ya did.. your a stupid American

Bleh on

Or maybe the American people want it redone and to actually do something about the cost of Healthcare.
Mandating a 3rd party and preexisting conditions does not decrease cost. 3rd parties have overhead and increase costs by their nature.
Keeping it so people do not shop for price does not reduce costs, it causes costs to go up.
Subsidizing does not decrease costs, it causes them go up and passes off the cost. Causing increased demand does not decrease costs, it increases costs.

For all the babble about reducing costs they sure are doing a bunch of things to guarantee they increase. Sooner or later the majority will feel it, it is just a matter of time. They could have just wrote a one page bill without a mandate and passed that to fix what you talk about. Problem is the wrote a 2000 page travesty and angered quite a few.

hjs3 on

Classic bite your nose to spite you face from where I sit but there are many irrational people out there on the right that are bound and determined to sink this President’s signature legislation….And they sure as hell don’t want to be looking at it as a part of any successful legacy either …..Scorched earth indeed…

Tedderman on

As with anything in the media today the words lose their meaning when taken out of context. In this case the media attempts to tell a story based on the few words in Gruber’s comment being taken out of context. Couple that with a right-wing media which is rabid for anything it can relay to it’s viewers who are only too happy to receive the garbled message. This garbled message taken out of context is packaged as the latest scandal in a myriad of perceived scandals upon which the right wing media thrives.

Ryan on

I fail to see how Gruber’s comments are “taken out of context.” That phrase has been used a lot by those favorable to Obamacare, but they really must SHOW how the comments are out of context. Saying it doesn’t make it so. I suspect that they think (just like the President) that all they have to do is speak and we’ll believe.

FreedomFan on

“Gaffe” = when someone accidentally tells the truth which they have been hiding under a pack of lies.

A tax credit is paid to enrollees in “an exchange established by the state under [section] 1311”. This “type-o” phrase appears six (6) times in the law.

Open minded one on

So if A tax credit is paid to enrollees in “an exchange established by the state under [section] 1311” So what I’m hearing here is if a State doesn’t provide an exchange program, taxpayers do not receive credit and will end up paying a higher premium?

John on

He hit it right on the head, and he is right. When the same people keep getting elected.
When big money has taken over Government. Where the people think we can control Congress or any other Branch of Goverment is hilarious. It’s over and has been for a while. This isn’t the first bill or law that has been passed with words that had fictional meanings or presented that it is what the Country needs.There will be more alot more too.
We have a Congress that works maybe 180 days a year, and 180 of them trying to raise money for re-election. They hardly read any bills, unless they can put something in for themselves.I worked in a County Government for 14 years and seen Politics at it’s best. A lot of people getting rich off taxpayers. Everyone in Congress leaves richer then when they came in.
Look what’s going on now a Pipeline thats has so many questions around it is being billed as an most important thing in Congress right now.. The dirty oil costs 85$ to 100$ to deliver and refine it, oil right now is trading at 76$ and projected to go lower, you get 5x more pollution from it ,it going to travel thru one of the biggest aquafiers in the US, and going to be sold on the open Market. It will create about 35 to 50 permanent jobs. But it’s important for who? The owners of the Tar Sands.
Two sides fighting over it. Who is right? Who is lying? We would be pretty naive to think we were never lied to, or words were minced, and we can do something about. This guy forgot there was a camera on, and said something that is probably talked about behind closed doors daily. We should thank him for waking some people up and maybe watch things a little closer.

James Santory on

In trying to be cute if forcing the states to establish exchanges, the Gruber/Obama team out smarted themselves, but writing into the law that there would not be subsidies unless the exchange is establish by the state. The Supreme Court now knows the language was put in intentionally and it was not a typo and there is no mention of a federal government backstop. It is plain what the law says, intent is now not important now. It should go back to congress if you want the wording change and that is how the Supreme Court should rule.

chim richalds on

Look at the liberal responses….wow.

That’s some serious spin in your own head – they’d have you think that their necessary stupidity for passage of legislation was just a recognition of tough love from their leadership.

The reality is that they have no recourse. They are dupes in denial, and it wouldn’t take Kubler-Ross to figure it out.

Paul Anderson Ed.D. on

From the beginning of this president’s administration: It was known that President Obama was less than truthful. The transparency John Q. Public was promised, was obviously missing. A character flaw that has no place in the Oval Office. As such, the deceit in the planning of the Affordable Care Act , is no real surprise.

This nation has suffered loss as a result of the administration’s progressive agenda.It will continue to suffer loss as long as this president is permitted to violate Constitutional Law.

Sam Yates on

A crock of double talk BS

bentley on

I watch him lie through his teeth today on one of the news programs, he should be fired and made to return the millions he received from grants and the government fraud money, and obuma should be impeached ASAP.
Dec. 18, 2014

John Kerwood on

The law was pushed down the peoples’ throats, without proper scrutiny and disclosure, and with unsupported assumptions, and with the highest liberal political elites shamelessly marketing lies, over and over. Its a disgrace. Reform was shut off by Harry Reid (for Obama) refusing to bring the House bills to the Senate floor, then the Senate passing legislation that made it impossible for the minority to filibuster in protest. That’s an awful example of a growing and dangerous sickness in our country today, to think one party’s agenda justifies changing the rules, overreach of constitutional authority, selective implementation of the country’s laws. These type actions are a shameful abuse of power. We cannot truly measure the negative 2nd and 3rd order effects until a true President signs sensible, fiscally responsible, and feasible reform legislation. If Obama will veto any House and Senate passed reforms (as he’s stated), 2 more years of damage occurs, for 1 liberal agenda, against the country.

Kathy Dotson on

You looked like an absolute idiot on Fox News this morning. Why don’t you put ur data down and get out and talk to the real people who are living this nightmare. My premium went from $42.01 to $320.00. What tree do u want me to pick that from, living on Social Security. It gets better, if I have to be admitted to the hospital I have to pay up front $1,500.00. Are u kidding me. This insurance is a joke.