On Tuesday, Obamacare architectJonathan Gruber and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testify before the CongressionalOversight Committee regarding the transparency and implementation ofObamacare.
Gruber will undoubtedly be grilled onthe series of videos wherein he bragged that deception and “the stupidity ofthe American voter” helped Democrats and the White House ram Obamacare topassage as law. Ms.Tavenner has been a key individual responsible for managing the implementationof Obamacare. Whereas Gruber willprovide information related to the process of passing the law, Tavenner willadd valuable insight into the administration’s actions after the law passed.
Gruber and his video may gather the attention, but if Tavenner can confirm that for nearly two years after the law passed HHS developed its HealthCare.gov website without any effort to offer taxcredits on the federal exchange, her testimony could be more beneficial to theupcoming Supreme Court case.
Below are 15 questions theCommittee should ask Professor Gruber:
Gruber’s role – The White House and Democrats have argued that Gruber was “just an advisor,” “not part of the White House staff,” “a non-legislator,” and “not part of drafting the law.” Gruber has publicly stated the opposite. What was Gruber’s role in initially designing and writing Obamacare and then explaining and selling the proposed law to Congress?
Gruber’s interaction with Democrats – Democrats have distanced themselves from Gruber claiming they “never met him” or “don’t know who he is.” What interaction did Gruber have with the president and senior members of the White House and Congress throughout this process? Specifically, did Gruber meet with President Obama in Boston in October last year? (Hat tip to Rich Weinstein)
Gruber’s White House meeting with Obama – Gruber described a meeting with the president at the White House, stating, “Now, the problem is, it’s a political nightmare… and people say, ‘No, you can’t tax my benefits.’ So what we did a lot in that room was talk about, well, how could we make this work? And Obama was like, ‘Well, you know’ — I mean, he is really a realistic guy. He is like, ‘Look, I can’t just do this.’ He said: ‘It is just not going to happen politically. The bill will not pass. How do we manage to get there through phases and other things?’ And we talked about it. And he was just very interested in that topic.” What specific solutions did Gruber discuss with the president in response to his comments and concerns in order to get the bill passed?
Sebelius’ reliance on Gruber – Former HHS Secretary Sebelius has recently claimed she never personally worked with Gruber. On December 3, 2009, Secretary Sebelius issued a press release with a “New Facts Sheet.” In this one page document, Sebelius references Gruber’s work three times. Are the statements attributed to Gruber “facts” or “assumptions,” and what was his role and interaction with Secretary Sebelius and her staff related to this document?
Obamacare master deception strategy – Explain how deception, lack of transparency, and the “stupidity of the American voter” were critical to Obamacare passage.
Deception players – Who from the Obama Administration, HHS, or Congress did Gruber discuss this deception, lack of transparency, and exploitation of the “stupidity of the American voter” strategy?
Key Obamacare deceptions – Explain each of the specific deceptions included in the law. Some of the more egregious deceptions:
You can keep your plan
You can keep your doctor
The mandate is not a tax
Healthy people are not subsidizing sick people
Companies will not cancel employer plans, thereby throwing many people onto the exchanges
Gruber and the CBO – Explain his involvement in development of the CBO model in 2007 that was used to score Obamacare, the similarities to his own micro-simulation model, and what information did he provide to CBO that as Senator Baucus said the CBO “otherwise does not have” to score Obamacare?
Gruber’s changed assumptions since law passed – Gruber has stated that he created a summary of his key assumptions for his micro-simulation model that he uses to run scenarios. What assumptions have materially changes since he ran his model for evaluating Obamacare in 2009?
Gruber’s sole source contract with HHS – On February 25, 2009, HHS announced it “intends to negotiate with Jonathan Gruber, Ph.D. on a sole sources basis for technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform. The basis for restricting competition is the authority 13.106-1(b) because only one source is reasonably available to satisfy agency requirements.” Why was he the only person that could provide the technical assistance? Was part of the reason that Gruber had worked with Peter Orszag and the CBO to develop the CBO model in 2007?
Why would a state establish an exchange? – Gruber disavowed his comments in the two January 2012 videotape that only states that establish exchange are entitled to receive tax credits. In the video tapes, Gruber explains how tax credits are a significant incentive for states to establish an exchange. If tax credits were not an incentive because all states received tax credits, what incentive was there for a state to establish an exchange?
Any evidence of another state incentive – Gruber had written at least 3 publications prior to January 2012 that state tax credits are for state-established exchanges. In addition, his colleague and the highly respected professor who was a guest at the Obamacare signing ceremony, Timothy Jost, published two papers in 2009 explaining the same exact tax credit incentive as Gruber did in the videos. Is Gruber aware of any publication or video tape of either him or Professor Jost where they provide any other logic or incentive for a state to establish its own exchange?
Gruber and the Supreme Court – Gruber should explain his involvement and conversations related to arguing to the Supreme Court that the mandate was a tax after, as he claimed on a video tape in drafting the law, the mandate was specifically not labeled as a tax.
Why are state exchanges important? – In designing the law, why was it important that states establish exchanges instead of the Federal government running the exchange for all the states?
Subcontracting and other compensation – Media publications have listed approximately $5.9 million in contracts with Federal and state organizations. In additions to these agreements, what other arrangements and how much did he earn from arrangements such as his subcontracting agreement with Wakely Consulting Group? (a senior partner at Wakely Group is a long time colleague of Gruber’s and ran the Massachusetts exchange)
There is one critical questionCongress should ask Administrator Tavenner:
Why no tax credit calculator for HealthCare.gov? – In order for an exchange website to offer tax credits, it must have a tax credit calculator that allows individuals to view the actual cost of their coverage after tax credits have been applied to their premiums. Official documents show that while HHS moved quickly after the ACA’s enactment to help state governments make tax credits available through state-based exchanges, for nearly two years, it developed its HealthCare.gov website without any effort to offer tax credits on the federal exchange. If the Obama administration and HHS believed the law provides tax credits for all exchanges including federally-facilitated exchanges, why did the original contract to build HealthCare.gov not require CGI to build a tax credit calculator?
Today should be entertaining. More importantly, the hearings mustachieve two key objectives: (1) illustrate how Obamacare is emblematic of the lackof transparency of the Obama administration; and (2) provide additional support tothe Supreme Court case that the intent of the law is that only individuals in statesthat establish exchanges are entitled to tax credits.
Here’s hoping Gruber’s andTavenner’s congressional testimony today will further lead to Oblimination: theend and reversal of Obama’s failed policies.