MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber Had Bigger Role in Health Law, Emails ShowPosted: June 21, 2015 | |
Adviser whose comments on Affordable Care Act touched off a furor worked more closely than previously known with White House
“His proximity to HHS and the White House was a whole lot tighter than they admitted. 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.”
The emails provided by the House Oversight Committee to The Wall Street Journal cover messages Mr. Gruber sent from January 2009 through March 2010. Committee staffers said they worked with MIT to obtain the 20,000 pages of emails.
They depict 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 that he consulted with HHS about how to publicly describe his role.
The administration has sought to distance itself from the MIT economist in the wake of his controversial statements in a 2013 video where he said the health law passed because of the “huge political advantage” of the legislation’s lacking transparency. He also referred to the “stupidity of the American voter.”
Republicans seized on the comments as evidence that supporters of the law purposely misled the public about its costs. Mr. Gruber received nearly $400,000 from HHS for his work focusing on health-policy computer models, according to public records.
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.” In testimony last year before Congress, Mr. Gruber 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.”
Mr. Chaffetz on Sunday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwellrequesting information justifying the department’s sole source contract with Mr. Gruber for his work on the health law.
Mr. Gruber declined to comment.
Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for HHS, said: “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. These emails only echo old news.”
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…..(read more)
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