Although the White House previously disregarded an MIT economist’s role in the construction of the Affordable Care Act, a recent report indicates the consultant was one of the most critical actors involved in crafting the legislation.
The Wall Street Journal obtained emails recently from the House Oversight Committee that unmasked over 20,000 pages of correspondence from January 2009 to March 2010 between Jonathan Gruber and advisers to the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the emails, Gruber was in contact with Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jason Furman, economic advisor to President Obama, and Ezekiel Emanuel, former special adviser for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget—among other top administration officials.
The emails reveal Gruber’s role advocating for the legislation.
Additionally, Jeanne Lambrew, an administrative official for the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote Gruber in September 2009 and thanked him for his involvement with the legislation, saying he was an “integral part of getting us to this historic moment.”
Likewise, the emails show Gruber’s correspondence with the Department of Health and Human Services concerning interactions with the media and lawmakers. Additionally, it is evident Gruber requested advice regarding how to publicly address his role in crafting the Affordable Care Act.
Despite this chain of correspondence, Gruber was not publicly acknowledged as a primary architect of the legislation by the Obama administration.
In the fall of 2014, video footage was released that captured Gruber commenting on the “stupidity of the American voter” for not understanding the cost ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. He credited the legislation’s passage to a “lack of transparency.”
In response, the Obama administration did not acknowledge Gruber’s contributions to the legislation.
“The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not reflection on the actual process that was run,” Obama said in November 2014 in response to Gruber’s comments.
According to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Gruber’s involvement with the Affordable Care Act’s construction was not represented accurately.
“His proximity to HHS [Health and Human Services] and the White House was a whole lot tighter than they admitted,” Chaffetz said. “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.”
Additionally, it was not divulged that Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by the Obama Administration to facilitate crafting the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not include Gruber’s name on a list of paid consultants upon special request from Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy0.
But according to the Department of Health and Human Services, this unveiling of emails is “old news.”
“As has been previously reported, Mr. Gruber was a widely used economic modeler for administration and state governments run by both parties—both before and after the Affordable Care Act was passed,” Meaghan Smith, Health and Human Services spokesperson, told The Wall Street Journal. “These emails only echo old news.”
The significance of this disclosure is particularly heightened since the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to announce their decision this week on King v. Burwell, a case concerning Affordable Care Act subsidies. The final decision will impact the future implementation of the Affordable Care Act.