20,000 pages of e-mails released showing MIT economist Gruber played key role in Obamacare
As the Supreme Court prepares to issue its decision in King v. Burwell, whether or not the rewriting of the law’s explicit language on state exchanges only being eligible for subsidies is constitutional, embarrassing revelations indicate that deception was indeed part of the strategy of the law’s writers.
When videos of Jonathan Gruber boasting to academic audiences that Obamacare passed because of the “huge political advantage” of its lack of transparency and the “stupidity of the American voter,” the White House claimed that he was just a minor consultant, not, as some had previously claimed, the “architect” of Obamacare.
President Barack Obama in 2014 said Mr. Gruber was “some adviser who never worked on our staff.” Mr. Gruber told Congress last year he disagreed with the widespread characterization of his role as the “architect” of Mr. Obama’s health-care plan.
Those contentions now looks a lot like lies, thanks to a trove of 20,000 pages of e-mails released to the Wall Street Journal by the House Oversight Committee. Stephanie Armour writes:
The emails show frequent consultations between Mr. Gruber and top Obama administration staffers and advisers in the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services on the Affordable Care Act. They show he informed HHS about interviews with reporters and discussions with lawmakers, and he consulted with HHS about how to publicly describe his role. (snip)
The White House has described Mr. Gruber as having a limited role in crafting the law. President Barack Obama in 2014 said Mr. Gruber was “some adviser who never worked on our staff.” Mr. Gruber told Congress last year he disagreed with the widespread characterization of his role as the “architect” of Mr. Obama’s health-care plan.
“His proximity to HHS and the White House was a whole lot tighter than they admitted,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House oversight committee. “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.” (snip)
The emails show Mr. Gruber was in touch with key advisers such as Peter Orszag, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget, an arm of the White House that oversaw federal programs.
He was also in contact with Jason Furman, an economic adviser to the president, and Ezekiel Emanuel, who was then a special adviser for health policy at OMB.
One email indicates Mr. Gruber was invited to meet with Mr. Obama. In a July 2009 email, he wrote that Mr. Orszag had “invited me to meet with the head honcho to talk about cost control.”
“Thank you for being an integral part of getting us to this historic moment,” according to Sept. 9, 2009 email to Mr. Gruber from Jeanne Lambrew, a top Obama administration health adviser who worked at HHS and the White House. In a November 2009 email, she called Mr. Gruber “our hero.”
In an August 2009 email, Lawrence Summers —then a top economic adviser in the administration—emailed Mr. Gruber and asked “if you were POTUS, what would u do now?” Mr. Gruber responded that Mr. Obama should hold out for enough money to do universal coverage.
Keep in mind that the administration has basically cast his role as merely a provider of an econometric model, a wonk with equations. But he was such a key actor that he even managed media:
Mr. Gruber also informed HHS about interviews he had with health policy reporters such as Ezra Klein, previously of the Washington Post and now with Vox Media. In a November 2009 email, Mr. Gruber let a top HHS official know the conversation went well and the story would post soon.
And he was involved in arm-twisting Congress:
In a November 2009 email, he apprised HHS of his conversations with former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.) She had been opposed to the health law but came to support it.
He was, in fact, such a political operative that he apparently got involved in either political fundraising or the structuring of the law’s taxes:
In a Sept. 23, 2009, email, Mr. Gruber emailed Ms. Lambrew saying “pharma is going to be a huge winner from this bill—maybe $15 billion/year in incremental revenue. Any way to go after them harder for financing?”