10/13/2011

"Come clean" Lawrence O'Donnell

Lawrence O'Donnell on his MSNBC show introduced Jon Gruber this way the other night.

Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC host: "Alright, come on. Come clean. You were in the room with President Obama discussing healthcare reform and you did in fact work with the Romney administration in Massachusetts. Come on Professor, you've got to tell us the truth."

Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor: "The truth is that the Affordable Care Act is essentially based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. It's the same basic structure applied nationally. John McDonough, one of the other advisers,who work in both Massachusetts and advised the White House said 'it's the Massachusetts with three more zeros.' And that's basically a good description of what the federal bill did." . . .


Is it true that Gruber work with the Romney administration on Romney care? Well, Gruber helped advise both Romney and Democratic state legislators. Is it true that he met with Obama to discuss what happened in Massachusetts? Yes, but Gruber was a lot more involved than O'Donnell indicates and he was involved in such a way that might affect how accurately he portrays events. Namely, that Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by the Obama administration to help them push Obamacare. Even worse, Gruber has already been attacked for making public statements without making this deep involvement with the Obama administration clear. What is of greater concern now is that the Obama administration is targeting Romney and they may be using Gruber coming forward right now to achieve that goal.

Democrats might be using Gruber to try to weaken Romney's chances of getting the Republican nomination.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the leading academic defenders of health care reform, is taking heat for failing to disclose consistently that he was under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services while he was touting the Democrats' health proposals in the media.

Gruber, according to federal government documents, is under a $297,600 contract until next month to provide "technical assistance" in evaluating health care reform proposals. He was under a $95,000 HHS contract before that. . . .


Gruber claims that the money didn't influence his policy recommendations, but he misses the point. He should have revealed that he was getting $392,600 from the Obama administration and then let the viewers of the shows that he was on make the call. Here is what Kate Pickert wrote on a blog for Time Magazine:

Still, if I had known Gruber had such a contract, I would have disclosed this fact to readers when I quoted him. (For the record, I would have still quoted him and I was aware that he was one policy expert among many who advised Congress. Quoting him in an Oct. 13, 2009 story I identified him as "a respected MIT economist who has advised lawmakers on health reform.") But the attribution should have gone further. I'm of the belief that readers should have as much information about sources as possible within the confines of journalistic writing. . . .


A blog at the Washington Post has this:

I wasn't aware of that, and if I had been, I would've made sure it was disclosed when I quoted Gruber. On the other hand, the implication that Gruber is somehow a paid shill for this bill belies a fairly long and consistent record in support of health reform, and in particular, this type of health reform. . . .


What surprises me is how sympathetic these discussions are towards Gruber. I can't find any correction or note on this in the newspaper or main website for the Washington Post. Here is a critique of Gruber's piece. So how much of the media is mentioning the amount of money that Gruber received? A Google News Search at 2:30 AM the day after the story on Gruber broke got 10 hits searching on ""Jonathan Gruber" $296,600 OR $400,000 OR $392,600." Five of those ten were to the leftwing blog (FireDogLake).



Personally, I don't think that the $392,600 altered Gruber's views, though I would be willing to bet that Gruber supports campaign finance regulations because he claims that even much, much smaller amounts can corrupt politicians. However, the amount of money that he was given is also pretty amazing for an academic doing consulting for the government. A Google News Search on "Jonathan Gruber" for 2008 and 2009 found 240 hits, most very prominent places.

In defending himself, Gruber told Politico: “I have been completely consistent with my academic track record.” Did Gruber alter his position on health care regulations over time? Say since 2007? It appears that the answer is "yes." Merrill Goozner, a health care policy blogger and NYU professor, notes:

Hmmm. What about this March 2007 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which he co-authored. It looked at the effect of higher out-of-pocket co-pays for retired public employees in California. Gruber found that they led to higher hospitalization rates as old folks with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease cut back on physician visits and necessary drugs.

These offset effects are concentrated in patients for whom medical care is presumably efficacious: those with a chronic disease. . . Our findings suggest that health insurance should be tied to underlying health status, with chronically ill patients facing lower cost-sharing.

What will happen after the excise tax hits high-cost insurance plans, according to Gruber today? 80 percent of employers will ratchet down plan benefits to keep their costs under the tax cap. The only way they can do that is by raising co-pays and deductibles and eliminating benefits. The extra money employers save will be returned to workers as higher wages, which they can choose to either use to pay for health care or pay other bills. And as his own research points out, many will choose to cut back on necessary care, and some will wind up in the hospital.

“There’s literally no evidence out there that people are going to suffer,” he told the Washington Post earlier this week. He should re-read his own paper.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Peroni said...

Hi John,

Excellent investigating blog post.

I would just add that the main difference, or rather still current difference, is that Romneycare is still favored 3:1 in Massachusetts and the people of that state have the option to not use it.

Obamacare has an unfavorable ratio in the nation and does not give that option.

10/13/2011 9:50 AM  
Blogger Rick G said...

"Gruber claims that the money didn't influence his policy recommendations"

Yeah right! If you believe that you probably believe:

"I will not raise your taxes, not even one dime."

"You can keep your doctor"

This plan will reduce health care cost."

10/14/2011 7:32 AM  

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