Jonathan Gruber contradicted himself on the availability of ObamaCare subsidies in a big way
In addition to his stunning arrogance and the insincerity of the so-called "apology" he offered to American public on Tuesday, Jonathan Gruber gave a new, albeit completely misleading defense of remarks he’s made about the availability of ObamaCare subsidies to states that don’t set up their own exchanges.
Gruber, in his opening statement, sought to "clarify some misperceptions" about remarks he made during a January 2012 speech at Noblis, a Virgina-based firm. "The portion of these remarks that has received so much attention lately omits a critical component of the context in which I was speaking. The point I believe I was making was about the possibility that the federal government, for whatever reason, might not create a federal exchange," Gruber told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "If that were to occur, and only in that context, then the only way that states could guarantee that their citizens would receive tax credits would be to set up their own exchanges."
Though he’s spoken as, been quoted as, and enriched himself as an authoritative figure on ObamaCare, Gruber, in response to questioning from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), pleaded ignorance on the part of the law requiring the creation of a federal exchange, telling the Michigan Republican that he wasn’t sure that the Department of Health and Human Services would have it set up on time.
"Are you suggesting that the law doesn’t require the federal government to set up an exchange in states that don’t have exchanges?" Amash asked Gruber, to which he replied, "I don’t recall exactly what the law says."
Amash quickly followed up in disbelief, asking, "You ran the economic model on ObamaCare, and you don’t know what the law says?"
"In every single economic model I ran, I always assumed that credits would be available regardless of whether the exchange was run by a state or the federal government," Gruber replied. "My comments in January 2012 were reflecting the uncertainty about whether those federal exchanges might be ready by January 2014."
"So you were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to run an economic model on ObamaCare," said Amash, "and yet, you were making statements that didn’t reflect the actual language of ObamaCare?"
Though he dismissed the question by saying he "made a series of statements that were really just inexcusable," Gruber wasn’t being honest with the committee. Though he claims to have "a long-standing and well-documented belief" that ObamaCare "must include mechanisms for residents in all states to obtain tax credits," Gruber’s January 2012 comments had nothing to do with the lack of a federal exchange. In fact, Gruber, in response to a question from an unnamed audience member, specifically pointed out that the federal government was creating its own exchange, which, he noted, is required by law.
"You mention the health [insurance] exchanges for the states," the audience member said, "and it’s my understanding that if states don’t provide one, the federal government will provide one."
Without any hesitation on his part, Gruber confirmed the audience member’s assertion. "Yeah, so these health insurance exchanges…will be these new shopping places, and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance," said Gruber. "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 in this backstop, I think, partly because they want to, sort of, squeeze the states to do it."
He then transitions into his remarks about the availability of subsidies, which have bolstered a lawsuit, King v. Burwell, that will be heard early next year by the Supreme Court. The crux of this lawsuit is that the IRS illegally promulgated regulations to include subsidies to be paid out to consumers who purchased health plans through the federal exchange when the actual text of the law ties these subsidies to "an exchange established by the State." If the court sides with the plaintiffs by striking down the rule, premiums for plans purchased through the federal exchange would rise dramatically, likely leading to an exodus of enrollees from the program.
"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," said Gruber. "I hope that 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."
Though he defended his January 2012 comments, calling them a "speak-o," this wasn’t the only time that Gruber said that the availability of ObamaCare subsidies would be tied to state-run exchanges. Again, in January 2012, though this time speaking to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Gruber noted that "about 10 states" had set up their exchanges, but explained that "[a] number of states" had turned down federal grant money to do the same and would be losing subsidies to be used for the purchase of health plans.
"Now, I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they’ll eventually throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure," said Gruber. "And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens."
What Gruber said before the committee on Tuesday, both in his opening statement and in responses to Amash’s question, may satisfy administration officials who paid him to help craft ObamaCare, but it was nothing short of revisionist history and a desperate attempt at damage control as King heads to the Supreme Court.