Vermont halts payments to Obamacare architect Gruber


HALTED: The top health care official in the Gov. Peter Shumlin administration announced Wednesday the state of Vermont will pay Jonathan Gruber only $160,000 of a $400,000 contract relating to the financing of single-payer health care.

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The state of Vermont has stopped payment on the contract of Jonathan Gruber following a series of video statements showing the Obamacare architect repeatedly insulting voters and intentionally misleding the public in the crafting of the Affordable Care Act.

On Wednesday, Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform for the Gov. Peter Shumlin administration, announced that Vermont would stop payment of Gruber’s $450,000 contract with the state.

As of this week, Vermont has paid Gruber $160,000 on a contract that began July 21 and was expected to continue until Feb. 15.

Miller said Gruber, an MIT economist, will provide all deliverables specified in the contract for the upcoming January presentation of Shumlin’s financing plan for single-payer health care to the Legislature. He will not receive any additional payments.

Gruber has contracts with the federal government and at least eight states totaling about $6 million.

Last week, a series of videos went viral in which Gruber made disparaging comments about the “stupidity” of American voters.

One video, shot by and released Friday by Vermont Watchdog, featured Gruber attending a 2011 Vermont House Health Care Committee meeting and quipping that the written concerns of one Vermonter regarding single-payer might have been written by his “adolescent children.” Those comments actually were written by John McClaughry, a two-term Vermont state senator and adviser to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

In other videos, including one shot at the University of Pennsylvania in October 2013, Gruber called the lack of government transparency “a huge political advantage,”and said it was impossible to have transparent financing and spending because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

Gruber’s work for Vermont pertains to financing and spending for Green Mountain Care, the name given to the state’s new universal, publicly financed health care program.

Gruber told Vermont Watchdog he had no comment concerning the decision by the Shumlin administration. A collage of Gruber’s comments from last week may be seen in this video.

Gruber is to provide “policy expertise, research, and economic modeling related to the implementation of Green Mountain Care,” according to the contract provided by the Vermont Agency of Administration.

At the center of Gruber’s work is a series of number-crunching scenarios generated using the proprietary Gruber Microsimulation Model (GMSIM), which reportedly shares similarities with the model used by the federal Congressional Budget Office, but which has been criticized for leaving out critical information.

Also according to contract data from the Agency of Administration, in 2011 the state of Vermont paid Gruber and health policy analyst Steven Kappel $355,600 for work relating to the “Hsiao Report,” an influential document from which Vermont’s single-payer health care law was drafted. Although the report was named for headlining expert William Hsiao, the Harvard University economist refused to be paid his work, leaving the contract money to be split among Gruber, Kappel and various assistants. Gruber’s baseline analysis using the GMSIM alone cost the state $20,000.

Support for the MIT economist began to collapse over the weekend as two state senators — including the Senate minority leader — and three state representatives called on Shumlin to terminate Gruber’s contract. Two online petitions with hundreds of signatures also demanded Shumlin terminate the contract.

On Monday, Shumlin told the media Gruber was not involved in policy matters but was merely “a calculator.” He further claimed he “never met” Gruber and couldn’t recall speaking with him, despite weekly conference calls between the economist and top health care officials since July.

Shumlin has denounced Gruber’s comments as “reprehensible,” but said he would still use GMSIM economic modeling in his financing plan to be delivered to the Legislature.

Contact Bruce Parker at