Voters got to know Jonathan Gruber in 2012 when the Obama campaign put the health care policy wonk forward to shut down ObamaCare attacks from Republican nominee Mitt Romney. President Obama was so eager to play up Gruber’s role as a chief architect of ObamaCare because Gruber had been a chief architect of Romney’s state-level health law. Elevating Gruber allowed the campaign to deliver his lines with greater crack: “The core of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and what we did in Massachusetts are identical," says Gruber in one campaign ad. While Gruber may have helped neuter Romney’s ObamaCare attacks, he may end up helping to neuter the law itself thanks to a video unearthed by free-market think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Gruber, an MIT professor who has become a Democratic health care talking head, also gets paid for talking to industry groups about ObamaCare. In one 2012 speech, Gruber talked about the provision in the law that has state governments administer enrollments, including subsidies. “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,” said Gruber, a MIT professor, in a speech two years ago. Why is that problematic? Because it directly contradicts what the administration argued in court about a lawsuit that could be “devastating” to ObamaCare because it would end the subsidies paid to enrollees in the states that did not voluntarily comply.
The preferred talking point for pro-administration groups has been to dismiss the subsidy gap as a clerical error, not an intentional policy. It goes like this: Congress meant to provide a way to work around non-compliant states, but didn’t get the wording right. It was, in the words of one administration insider deployed to knock down the court decision, a typo. And who was that insider? You guessed it: Jonathan Gruber. This matters not because it is an embarrassing deception for an academic to be caught in, but because it suggests the falsity of the administration’s claim that this was a glitch and not a feature. The administration was eager to highlight Gruber’s role in order to shame Romney, making it hard now to suggest that he was some peripheral figure. Whether this matters in the expected Supreme Court decision is a matter for the legal eagles to consider, but from a messaging point of view this is a Krakatoa-sized eruption.
The plan pretty plainly was to do on subsidies what the administration has tried to do on Medicaid expansion: pressure governors who do not comply and create talking points for Democratic candidates. It’s just that so many states refused to set up their own ObamaCare shops, including those with supportive governors. The rest of the actual glitches in the law and technology made even some liberal governors opt out and kick the can back to Washington. If the White House can’t argue publicly that this is some silly technicality it goes straight to the heart of the main problem with ObamaCare and voters: they don’t think it works.
A very troublesome agency – WSJ’s Kimberly Strassel points out that the agency behind the regulation that may sink ObamaCare is the same one that has left the administration embroiled in a political scandal: “The IRS (famed for nitpicking and prosecuting the tax law), chose to authorize hundreds of billions of illegal subsidies without having performed a smidgen of legal due diligence, and did so at the direction of political taskmasters. The agency's actions provided aid and comfort to elected Democrats, even as it disenfranchised millions of Americans who voted in their states to reject state-run exchanges. And Treasury knows how ugly this looks, which is why it initially stonewalled Congress in its investigation—at first refusing to give documents to investigators, and redacting large portions of the information.”
New round of ObamaCare delays, waivers – Fox News: “The Obama administration is coming under fire for once again making a unilateral change to ObamaCare — this time, quietly exempting the five U.S. territories and their more than 4 million residents from virtually all major provisions of the health care law. The decision was made a week ago, and was a long time coming. For months, the territories have been complaining that the law was implemented so poorly in their regions that it destabilized their insurance markets. Until now, the Department of Health and Human Services claimed its hands were tied. But last Wednesday, the department reversed course. The about-face has some questioning the department's authority to suddenly grant 4.1 million Americans an out from ObamaCare. …”