Controversial MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, known to all except, apparently, himself as the “architect” of The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), apologized repeatedly for what he called his “series of inexcusable comments” in his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday. He also asserted that “my flaws as a private citizen should not reflect the process by which the Affordable Care Act was passed.”
But Gruber did little to dispell the notion that his work on behalf of Obamacare was deceptive and lacked transparency.
When asked to provide details requested by the committee about $2.5 million in Obamacare related contracts he secured with an estimated eight states, He lawyered up. “Take it up with my counsel,” he said several times.
In addition, he refused to provide any examples of work product related to his Obamacare economic modeling carried out under a $400,000 sole source contract he obtained with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009.
Gruber’s failure to provide the documentation required on all federal and state contracts related to Obamacare in advance of the hearing, as well as his repeated failure to recall how much he had been paid by states, and even how many states had paid him for his Obamacare expertise subsequent to the passage of the law in 2010, drew the ire of current Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and incoming Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
Gruber also was apparently unable to recall exactly how many times he had been to the White House to discuss Obamacare. Several Republican representatives suggested he had been there 21 times. Gruber said it was not that many, but was unable to offer an exact number.
Gruber was also unaware, according to his testimony, that his $400,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human services, signed in February 2009, was sole source.
“I don’t recall exactly,” he told Representative John Mica (R-FL) when asked if he knew that contract was sole source.
At the conclusion of the hearings, Issa promised that the incoming Chairman was likely to call Gruber back to provide that information, and that if the information was not forthcoming in 30 days, the Committee would subpoena Gruber for it.
Gruber also lawyered up when Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked him to show the work product from his Obamacare model in which he estimated how many people would lose their coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
“You can talk to my counsel,” Gruber responded to each question from Chairman Issa and several other Republican members of the committee who wanted to know details about the number and size of his Obamacare related contracts with state governments.
“My counsel says we complied with the committee,” Gruber told Issa when asked about his failure to provide the detailed list of federal and state contracts prior to his testimony.
“No, you didn’t,” Issa responded.
Issa then elaborated that Gruber had provided information on only a single grant from the federal government for $100,000, rather than the estimated $2.5 million to $4 million press reports say he’s received in contracts with at least eight states that paid for his economic consulting advice related to Obamacare.
“You are a smart man who said some stupid things,” Issa told Gruber early in the hearing.
Gruber has a pattern of hiding the details of his Obamacare related contracts with state governments, as Breitbart News has reported is currently the status of his $280,000 contract with the state of Vermont, where Gruber has been hired by Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin to sell his single-payer health care system to the State Legislature. Neither Gruber nor the state of Vermont have provided any public detail about his questionable billing practices or his modeling assumptions.
“We [in the Vermont State Legislature] won’t see all of what Gruber did to provide the information the Shumlin administration will use to advance its political agenda–and we may never see any results that were adverse to it,” Democratic State Representative Cynthia Browning, who has a Phd. in economics from the University of Michigan, told Breitbart News on Monday.
That concern was repeated by Republican members of the House Oversight Committee who asked Gruber for details about his work product.
“No one’s ever questioned the integrity of my [economic] model,” Gruber told Issa. “I’m questioning it,” Issa responded, adding that it now required independent validation.
Incoming Chairman Chaffetz repeatedly asked Gruber to produce work product documents, and Gruber repeatedly referred Chaffetz to his attorney.
“They can take that up with my counsel,” Gruber told Chaffetz when he asked that copies of work product related to the Affordable Care Act be delivered to committee staff members. “Will you provide this information?” Chaffetz asked Gruber. “Once again,” Gruber responded, “you can take that up with my counsel.”
Chaffetz persisted. “We’re asking you [for this], you’ve been paid [by the taxpayers],” Chaffetz told Gruber.
Gruber once again referred Chaffetz to his counsel.
“What are you hiding,” Chaffetz asked. “Why won’t you give that to us?”
Gruber again told Chaffetz to take it up with his counsel.
“I’m not sure,” Gruber told Chaffetz when asked who owns those documents.
Democrats went on the record to criticize Gruber for his previous public comments, but said those comments should not obscure the benefits of Obamacare.
“As far as I can tell we are here today for stupid I mean absolutely stupid comments [Professor Gruber] made over the last few years,” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in his opening statement. “This may be good political theater,” Cummings added, “but it will not help a single person.”
“I am extremely frustrated with Dr. Gruber’s statements. They were irresponsibles, disrespectful. . . Dr. Gruber does not speak for me,” Cummings added.
Cummings in particular bemoaned the political fallout of Gruber’s statements.
“[You] gave Republicans a public relations gift,” Cummings told Gruber. “Many Republicans now allege some kind of Democratic conspiracy [in the passage of Obamacare].”
Cummings noted, however, that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney praised Gruber in 2006 for his work on “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.
Marilyn Tavenner, Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Ari Goldmann, a consultant and waiter, also testified before the committee.