It isn't the first time on Capitol Hill that a paid hack starts singing a different tune once the money dries up, but this might be one for the record books given the magnitude of the case. Jonathan Gruber became a very familiar name around Congress and in the media as one of the primary defenders of ObamaCare in 2009 and early 2010. The White House trotted him out often as a supposed unbiased, independent expert with major league credentials to make the case for Obama's signature piece of legislation. The fact that he was paid $400,000 for his opinions was well hidden, and now that the money has dried up, the MIT economist is travelling the country and telling a very different tale about the real impact of ObamaCare.
Gruber consistently spewed the Administration's company-line that ObamaCare would reduce health care insurance premiums. For example, on November 29, 2009 the White House Blog attributed the following statement to Gruber:
"Analysis of the non-partisan information from the CBO suggest that for those facing purchase in the non-group market, the House bill will deliver savings ranging from $200 for singles to $500 for families in today's dollars – even without subsides. The savings are much larger for lower income populations that receive premium credits (subsidies)." (emphasis added.)
The White House blog post was written by Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Director of Obama's Office of Health Care Reform at the time – the Salesman-in-Chief for ObamaCare. DeParle trumpets the "compelling new report" (which in reality is just a two page memo of text and two graphs) that apparently led to Gruber's conclusion. She also cites a Politico.com feature that obviously was hand fed by the White House with the headline, "MIT analysis backs Obama." The article claims Gruber's report is "new ammunition for Democrats" and proof that "Americans would pay less" for health insurance under ObamaCare.
Conveniently, DeParle never mentions that Gruber was at the time under contract to the Administration, nor does the Politico.com article. But, months later Fox News discovered that Gruber was in fact under a $297,600 contract at the time to the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the Administration "technical assistance" in evaluating health care reform proposals. He had a $95,000 contract with HHS prior to that. Like any good shill-for-hire, Gruber maintains that the almost $400,000 he collected in no way compromised his objectivity, and that he "firmly" believed in all his assertions about the cost saving benefits of ObamaCare.
At least until the money dried up and his contract expired.
Over the last few months, Gruber has been on the speaking circuit in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado. In each case his analysis of the impact on insurance premiums for each state has changed dramatically now that the legislation has become the law of the land. Following is a sample:
- "Prior to the application of tax subsidies 87% of the individual market will experience an average premium increase of 41%. The average increase for the entire Individual Market will be 30%."
- "After the application of tax subsidies 59% of the individual market will experience an average premium increase of 31%."
- "53% of the Small Employer Groups will experience a premium increase as compared to pre reform premiums. The average premium increase will be 15%. 47% of small groups will receive, on average, a 16% decrease."
- "… prior to tax subsidies, 41% of the market will receive a premium increase that is higher than 50%."
- "… 54% of the members receiving greater than a 50% premium increase are age 29 and under."
- Premium impact due to the Minimum Essential Benefit Requirement of ObamaCare is estimated at 8% to 11% increase.
- 20% of the Small Group Market will see greater than a 20% premium increase due to elimination of Health Status Rating.
- Premium Increases for Individual Policy Market are estimated to increase 29% by 2016.
- Non-group premiums increase by 2016 from $4360 without reform to $5630 under ObamaCare – a 29% increase – before subsidies.
- Even after subsidies, 32% on non-group policies will experience premium increases as follows:
- 4% will have greater than 50% premium increase
- 3% will increase 25% to 50%
- 9% will increase 10% to 25%
- 16% will increase 0% to 10%
- Individual Market Premiums will increase 19% on average
- Even after subsidies, 13% will see a premium increase, and 7% will increase by more than 10% due to ObamaCare.
Clearly none of this squares with Gruber's original contention "that for those facing purchase in the non-group market, the House bill will deliver savings ranging from $200 for singles to $500 for families in today's dollars – even without subsides. The savings are much larger for lower income populations that receive premium credits."
We all remember Nancy Pelosi's infamous line regarding ObamaCare; "We have to pass it, so you can find out what's in it." Presumably, Gruber actually did know what was in it when he offered his initial analysis. But, it is almost a certainty that virtually every Democrat Member of Congress that voted for the legislation hadn't read and didn't fully understand the impact of legislation. Instead those Democrats relied on the analysis and advice of presumed independent experts like Gruber. It seems equally certain that at least a few of those Democrats might have had second thoughts if they knew Gruber was on the payroll at the time, and had he been honest enough to tell the rest of the story before the vote instead of eighteen months later.