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Former Vermont Governor Blasts State’s $450k Contract with Jonathan Gruber

Former Vermont Governor Blasts State’s $450k Contract with Jonathan Gruber

Former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas is critical of the state’s $450,000 personal services contract with controversial MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, the “architect” of Obamacare. “Hiring a consultant who has admitted deceiving the public is not the Vermont way,” Douglas told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

Vermonters expect honesty, transparency and a day’s work for a day’s pay; that’s how they conduct their own lives,” Douglas added, after reviewing the skimpy documentation Gruber provided the state in the first two invoices for $200,000 he submitted in connection with his contract. 

Douglas, a Republican, served as governor from 2003 to 2011.

Gruber’s comments about how he deceived the “stupid” American people about the details of Obamacare did not become publicly prominent until November, four months after he signed the contract with Vermont.

The contract calls for Gruber to deliver “economic modeling and analysis” to the state’s Agency of Administration. Gruber has few deliverables in the contract, other than to “assist the State in analyzing finance and coverage proposals for Green Mountain Care to be presented to the Legislature by January 15, 2015” as the contract’s specification of work to be performed states.

“Specifically,” the contract says, “the Agency of Administration is contracting for policy expertise and economic modeling to understand and assess the impact of moving from the current health care coverage and finance system to a publicly financed health care system in accordance with Act 48 of 2011.”

The publicly financed health care system authorized in Act 48 of 2011 is commonly called Green Mountain Care, the ephemeral single payer system Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT) is trying to implement in the state, with little visible progress to date.

Breitbart News has obtained a copy of the original contract, Gruber’s first two invoices, and internal emails between key figures in the state’s Agency of Administration.

On September 3, 2014, Gruber submitted his first invoice to the state for $100,000. It had few details. The invoice consisted of a single typed page, which Gruber addressed to an administrator in the Agency of Administration (but not the one specified in the contract), and said was for “work for the State of Vermont under contract #27277, consulting and modeling on the Green Mountain Care proposal.”

For this six-week period, Gruber billed the State of Vermont $100,000, but offered no documentation as to the type of work performed, what tasks were accomplished, how much time each task took, or who performed the specific task. It billed for:

Jonathan Gruber: 100 hours at $500/hour = $50,000

Research Assistants: 500 hours at $100/hour=$50,000

Total: $100,000

On September 19, Michael Costa, the state official who was addressed as the recipient of Gruber’s invoice, sent this email, along with Gruber’s invoice, to Robin Lunge, Vermont’s Director of Health Care Reform, who was specified as Gruber’s contact person in the contract:

Robin,

For your approval. Sorry for the delay. Marisa, it would be great if you could bother us about this on Monday.

On September 21, Lunge responded to Costa:

Is this detailed enuf? Maybe we should ask [Michael] Clasen [Deputy Secretary for the Agency of Administration] before I approve. I would need to check the contract terms.

Michael Costa responded later that day on September 21:

I can ask him tomorrow, I have about eight things that he should know about.

On September 30, Michael Costa emailed Marisa Melamed, attaching Gruber’s September 3 invoice:

Approved. Please move this through as it was submitted a while back. Thank you.

On October 11, the state issued a check in the amount of $80,000 payable to Gruber personally against the first invoice. (Under the terms of the contract, the state retains 20% of all invoices until the contract is deemed completed.)

Gruber submitted a second invoice with identical charges, on October 16, and has been paid an additional $80,000 based on that invoice, according to press reports.

To date, Gruber has been paid $160,000 against invoices totaling $200,000. It is unclear if the state will pay Gruber the $40,000 held against completion of the contract subsequent to the completion of the “assistance” in preparing the administration’s January 15, 2015 report to the Legislature on Green Mountain Care.

Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform in Vermont, said last week that the state would not pay Gruber for his personal services going forward, but that his research assistants will be paid, and that the state expected Gruber to honor the terms of the contract. In essence, the State of Vermont unilaterally lowered the pricing terms of the contract but did not terminate it.

Although Miller reports directly to Governor Shumlin, he appears to have had little interaction with Gruber prior to a phone call the two had last week immediately prior to Miller’s public announcement concerning Gruber’s unilateral pay cut. In fact, Miller’s name and position appear nowhere in Gruber’s contract with the state of Vermont. Robin Lunge, the State of Vermont’s Director of Health Care Reform, is specified as Gruber’s contact in the contract.

The contract, however, is with Gruber, and previous billing for research payments was not made by the state to the research assistants, but instead to Gruber personally. Gruber has not provided accounting evidence that he has, in fact, paid the research assistants whose services he billed the state for in the first two invoices.

Miller did not address the practical details of subsequent payments to Gruber’s research assistants. It is unclear how Gruber’s research assistants will be paid, since the contract, which has apparently not been terminated, is a personal services contract with Gruber and not the research assistants.

Former Governor Douglas is not the only Vermonter who has publicly criticized the state’s contract with Gruber.

The Ethan Allan Institute, a free-market think tank based in Concord, Vermont, is circulating a petition calling on the State of Vermont to terminate its contract with Gruber.

A letter signed by Ethan Allen Institute President Rob Rober was posted on its website last week:

[Governor] Peter Shumlin has promised that if we can’t do single payer for less than the cost of the current system, “we’ll take our marbles and go home.” Is Gruber going to give us an honest assessment of what single payer will cost, or will he cook the books to make sure Shumlin’s marbles don’t go anywhere?

When he said, “I wish… we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not,” Jonathan Gruber obliterated his credibility as an impartial actor. We cannot trust him. He cannot be our “calculator.”  And we cannot trust people who defend him.

So please,

SIGN THE PETITION TO TERMINATE GRUBER’S CONTRACT

Despite Governor Douglas’s criticisms of the Gruber contract, and calls by the Ethan Allen Institute and Republican leaders in the Vermont State Legislature for Governor Shumlin to terminate Gruber’s contract with the State of Vermont, Shumlin has given no indication he intends to do so.

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