Agency: $443,000 on Gruber analysis of Obamacare in Wisconsin long spent

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The “architect” of Obamacare who suggested the “stupidity of the American voter” helped pass President Obama’s signature health-care reform law hauled in $200,000 from Wisconsin taxpayers for his analysis of the potential costs and impacts of the Affordable Care Act on the Badger State, according to the state Department of Health Services.

In total, taxpayers spent $443,718 for MIT economist Jonathan Gruber and a firm to analyze the actuarial and economic impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Wisconsin health insurance markets, according to records obtained by Wisconsin Reporter.

The remaining $243,718 went to Gorman Actuarial LLC, the Marlborough, Mass.-based consulting firm that Gruber fancies working with.

“Jonathan Gruber developed the model for the report that outlined PPACA’s (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) effects on Wisconsin…” Stephanie Smiley, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, wrote in an email.

GRUBER DUES: Wisconsin paid $443,000 for an analysis on Obamacare led by Obamacare ‘architect’ Jonathan Gruber. With the money long spent, what can be done about the MIT professor’s potential “transparency” problems in Wisconsin and elsewhere?

But unlike in other states where Gruber’s Obamacare analyses go on, the money for Wisconsin’s contract is long spent — on a study whose accuracy and integrity is being questioned by taxpayers whom Gruber apparently thinks are too stupid to understand.

The state contract was issued July 1, 2010, under the administration of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, and it ended June 30, 2011.

Wisconsin Reporter asked whether the state agency involved with the Gruber contract would review the analysis and go after the expenditures, based on the professor’s comments that the health care law passed because of a “lack of transparency” over its funding mechanisms.

“Because this contract was entered into under the previous administration and the vast majority of the work was performed for that administration, we do not have a comment on the work performed,” Smiley said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker’s office didn’t return a request for comment from Wisconsin Reporter.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the office had no new information to report on the matter.

Bob Delaporte, spokesman for the office of state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said he thinks the issue will come up in the next session, beginning in January. Darling is co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful Joint Committee on Finance, the budget-writing committee.

“It’s appalling how much he (Gruber) has made,” Delaporte said. “I remember having phone calls from liberals who would scream at me about this stuff and all the things I said came true, all my worst fears about it and (Gruber and the Obama administration) knew about it.”

While the Obama administration and ACA supporters have distanced themselves from Gruber since the release of a video showing the economist’s incendiary statements, Gruber has raked in millions of taxpayer dollars for his work designing Obamacare — on top of at least $1.6 million he has pocketed from Wisconsin and other states for his consultancy work.

Because Gruber apparently was so instrumental in designing the ACA, there is concern he massaged the original numbers to help a divided Congress pass the legislation in 2010. The law was narrowly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

Gruber made his statements during a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. It wasn’t until recently that a video of the economist’s comments surfaced and caught fire on social media, eventually making its way to the general press.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber told the Penn audience. “And basically, call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” He has since apologized for his “inappropriate” comments, but the damage is done.

Vermont recently fired Gruber in the wake of the scandal. North Carolina effectively followed suit.

“As the governor and I have said, the comments by Mr. Gruber are offensive, inappropriate and do not reflect the thinking of this administration or how we do things in Vermont,” said Lawrence Miller, spokesman for Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, in a statement reported by Fox News. “As we have also said, we need solid economic modeling in order to move forward with health care reform.”

Gruber’s patented health care modeling system has since come into question, along with the administration’s bold claims about Obamacare that proved faulty — none bigger than Obama’s, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance” pledge.

Economist John R. Lott Jr., former chief economist at the U.S. Sentencing Commission and Fox News columnist, recently opined that Gruber “underestimated costs and overestimated how many people would be covered.”

“Like so many Ivory Tower academics, Gruber doesn’t understand how the real world works,” Lott wrote in a column for Fox News.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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