Early Thursday from a press briefing in Burma, White House press secretary Josh Earnest fielded questions from Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry over questions about remarks made by MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the ObamaCare legislation passed into law, which he claimed the lack of transparency and “stupidity” of the voter as assets in the push for that legislation.
Earnest denied Gruber’s remarks were correct and described the ObamaCare passage process as “extremely transparent.”
Partial transcript as follows:
HENRY: While you’ve been here, the President has been here, there’s videotape from Jonathan Gruber, who was one of the architects when the law came out.Among the things he said was that the bill was originally written in a “very tortured way,” in his words, to kind of mislead people about the taxes in the law and other parts of the law.He went on to say, “A lack of transparency was a huge political advantage for the President…” in terms of selling it to the American people.
I thought it was just the opposite. Didn’t the President promise unprecedented transparency?Why would one of the architects of the law suggest that you were misleading people?
EARNEST: Well, I’m not sure, frankly, Ed. The fact of the matter is the process associated with writing and passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent.We all sat through many town hall meetings and discussions where this piece of legislation was vigorously debated by people on both sides.There was even a meeting that the President convened at Blair House with Republicans to discuss this policy proposal.It was, as you know, broadcast by C-SPAN.
There was a steadfast commitment by this administration to make sure that people had good insight into the benefits of the law.The fact is we spent a lot of time talking about one of those benefits.And that is the fact that individuals could receive tax credits from the federal government to make their health care costs more affordable.The fact is, I think it’s actually Republicans who haven’t been particularly transparent or even honest about the true impact of those.
HENRY: He talked about some of the downsides, saying that we had told people that sick people were going to get more benefits; healthy people wouldn’t pay more — and not tax credits, but people paying higher taxes.And CBO, he said, scoring it as a tax, that that was going to hurt.He wasn’t talking about the benefits.He was saying that some of the negative sides, you misled people.
EARNEST:Well, again, it sounds like you may have watched the video a few more times than I have.
EARNEST:Right, right, right.Again, I think you’ve probably watched it more than I have, so I’m not going to quibble with what he actually said.
I do think that the question that you raised is about the commitment to transparency that was embodied in the process of writing and passing the Affordable Care Act.And again, I think the President is proud of the transparent process that was undertaken to pass that bill into law.
And again, I do think that the benefits are transparent to people who have gone to the website and evaluated the health care options that are available to them.In many cases, these are higher quality, more affordable options than had ever been available to them.
This does lead me to one other segue, which is that there is an opportunity for people now — in advance of the enrollment period — to go onto the website and to begin shopping.And that, again, is a commitment that this administration has made to try and get people as much information as possible, as soon as possible, so that they can make the kinds of decisions that are in the best interest of their families or their small business.
HENRY: — on the video, he also says that — he says, “Call it what you will, the stupidity of the American voter — if we have been more transparent, this wouldn’t have passed.”To suggest that voters are stupid and that’s how you passed it, you don’t feel bad about that at all?
EARNEST:I disagree vigorously with that assessment, I think is what I would say.I think the fact of the matter is this is a — this was a very difficult undertaking, but ultimately this is a law that has had significant benefits for millions of people that have been able to sign up through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act.We’re nearing the open enrollment period once again where millions more people will have the opportunity to at least go online and shop to see if they can get a better deal for their family through the Obamacare marketplaces.We certainly would hope the people would take advantage of that opportunity to see if they find something that’s in their best interest.
Again, that is one of the benefits of this proposal, of this law, is that it does empower consumers to make these kinds of decisions with more transparency, with a greater understanding about the market, with a greater understanding of what the costs are associated with each of the plans, and what the benefits are.
And again, that I think is one of the hallmarks of this proposal.It’s one of the reasons that it’s been so successful so far.And it’s one of the reasons that we’re bullish about its prospects moving forward.
I will say — and I think this warrants mentioning, as well — it is Republicans who have been less than forthright and transparent about what their proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would do in terms of the choices that are available to middle-class families.I know there is at least one very prominent Republican who campaigned for reelection saying that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but yet keep in place the Affordable Care Act marketplace that has operated very successfully in his state.
So I think if we’re going to examine which party, and whether its advocates or opponents who have been honest about the true impact of the law, I think the administration grades out very well on that factor.
(h/t RCP Video)
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