Fact Sheet on Jonathan Gruber’s Earlier Untrue Comments on the Drafting and Passing of the ACA, Which He Has Since Back-Tracked From
Consideration of ACA Was One of the Most Open and Transparent in History, With Its Provisions Fully Debated Before the American Public
- Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has called a hearing for today, entitled “Examining Obamacare Transparency Failures,” where he has called MIT economist Jonathan Gruber as a witness to discuss comments Gruber made in 2013 and earlier about the drafting of the ACA, which came to light over the last few months.
- Chairman Issa is calling Gruber as a witness today despite the fact that Gruber has since back-tracked from these comments – calling them “off-the-cuff” mistakes.
- The comments by Gruber that have received the most attention are those he made in 2013 at an academic conference at the University of Pennsylvania, seeming to indicate that Democrats 1) used lack of transparency and 2) deliberately hid key features of the ACA in order to get the ACA passed.
- Gruber was simply factually wrong in the assertions he made.
- First of all, there was no lack of transparency in the drafting and passing of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the consideration of the Affordable Care Act was one of the most open and transparent in our nation’s history. Here are some of the facts:
o House committees held 79 bipartisan hearings and markups on the health reform bill.
o House Members spent nearly 100 hours in hearings, heard from 181 witnesses from both sides of the aisle, considered 239 amendments (both Democratic and Republican), and accepted 121 amendments.
o The Senate HELP Committee held 47 bipartisan hearings, roundtables, and walkthroughs. They also considered nearly 300 amendments and accepted more than 160 Republican amendments.
o The Senate Finance Committee held more than 53 hearings on health reform. They spent 8 days marking up the legislation – the longest markup in 22 years – during which they considered 135 amendments.
o The Senate spent 25 consecutive days in session on health reform, the second longest consecutive session in history.
- Secondly, the authors of the ACA did NOT hide key features of the bill from the public.
- In his 2013 remarks, Gruber suggested that the ACA authors hid from the American public that the individual mandate involved the tax code. That is simply false. The CBO and JCT prepared and provided to the public their score of the individual mandate as increasing revenue by $4 billion in 2016, and, on average, “an estimated $5 billion will be collected per year over the 2017-2024 period.” The penalty is collected under the Internal Revenue Code and the authors of the ACA have always acknowledged that individuals would have to report it on the tax returns “as an addition to income tax liability.”
- In his 2013 remarks, Gruber also suggested that ACA authors hid from the public that there were adjusted community rating provisions in the ACA – i.e. that the premiums of younger, healthier individuals would make the premiums of older, sicker people more affordable. That is also simply false. In fact, adjusted community rating was a key feature of the legislation from the start. The provisions pool younger, healthier people with older, sicker people in much the way employer-sponsored plans do. In those plans, every employee pays the same rate even though older, sicker workers cost more to insure. Americans understand this pooling because it’s a feature of the employer-based system through which millions get coverage. In fact, there was much public discussion of adjusted community rating in the ACA, including many media reports:
o For example, in a Sept. 29, 2009 article entitled “Age and Higher Premiums Go Together,” Associated Press Erica Werner explained that the various reform bills making their way through Congress relied on adjusted “community rating” – with tying the rates of younger and healthier people to the rates of older and sicker people causing the former to pay more.
o Similarly, in a public bipartisan White House forum on health care in February 2010, President Obama said that healthy and sick people would enroll in a large insurance pool to better balance the risk and the cost of insurance. Obama stated, “That’s the concept of pooling – you get the healthy and the young people alongside the not-so-healthy and the older people. But we’re all kind of spreading our risk because each of us doesn’t know at any given time what might happen.”
o Indeed, in 2009 and 2010, Republicans publicly highlighted the adjusted community rating provisions of the ACA as a key way to attack the bill. This is despite the fact that in the early 1990s numerous Senate Republicans cosponsored a major health reform bill that included community rating as a key provision – “spreading risks and costs more broadly” by requiring insurers to adopt “adjusted community rating.”
Role of MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber in the ACA
- The role of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber with respect to the ACA has been frequently misrepresented in the media. Jonathan Gruber was not an “architect” of the ACA. Indeed, Gruber played no role in drafting the Affordable Care Act in the House or Senate.
- Indeed, at the dozens of hearings on the health reform bill by the three health committees in the House in 2009, with 181 witnesses, Jonathan Gruber was never a witness. He testified at two Senate hearings.
- Gruber’s role was that of a “modeler.” Gruber has a microsimulation model, which consists of 15,000 lines of computer code. His model has been useful to health care policymakers in getting estimates of the costs and effects of policy proposals.
- In 2009, HHS had a contract with Gruber, who was a full-time professor at MIT. Under the contract, Gruber used his microsimulation model to model various possible policy proposals. Gruber never worked for the White House, HHS, or any congressional committee.
- It is true that in December 2009, Gruber ran the House-passed health reform bill through his microsimulation model, and his results, which showed that the bill would result in lower premiums than under current law for American families, were placed on then-Speaker Pelosi’s website and were briefly referenced by then-Speaker Pelosi at a 2009 press conference. However, referencing a Gruber modeling analysis does not make Gruber a drafter or architect of the ACA.