US

Media skip disclosure of paid Obamacare shill

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who had a closed-door meeting with President Obama in Boston last week to discuss Obamacare, has resurfaced to defend the Affordable Care Act; but neither he nor the media that have given him a platform disclosed the $400,000 he was paid by the Department of Health & Human Services in 2009.

Gruber, who was on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and was the subject of an article in the New Yorker this past week, has emerged as the go-to-voice for reporters looking for an academic view on Obamacare in recent years.

None of these news organizations disclosed Gruber’s ties to HHS.

Gruber’s HHS contract was not incidental to once paid for “technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform,” according to a copy of his contract from the General Services Administration. The government paid Gruber a cool $297,600 in that contract, and he made $95,000 from another HHS contract that same year.

The contract described Gruber as an “expert in health policy in economics” and said that he had “developed a proprietary statistically sophisticated micro-simulation model that has flexibility to ascertain the distribution of changes in health care spending and public and private sector health care costs due to a large variety of changes in health insurance benefit design, public program eligibility criteria, and tax policy.”

“This model has been used for other health care proposal [sic],”  the contract continued, presumably referring to Romneycare in Massachusetts.

Gruber has an obvious professional interest in seeing Obamacare implemented and in arguing for it. He is a primary architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare, author of a 1992 dissertation titled “Changes in the structure of employer-provided health insurance,” and one of the first proponents of the individual mandate. Gruber is nicknamed or pretends to be nicknamed “Mr. Mandate.”

Without mentioning that conflict of interest, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker quoted Gruber at length about how he says fewer than three percent or nine million Americans would be affected.

“We’ve decided as a society that we don’t want people to have insurance plans that expose them to more than six thousand dollars in out-of-pocket expenses,” Gruber said to Lizza.

Gruber said that the nine million Americans are arguably losers from Obamacare. “We have to as a society be able to accept that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a shame, but no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.”

The most recent time a major media organization disclosed Gruber’s financial stake was in 2010, when the New York Times printed a clarification once Gruber’s conflict of interest became known.

Neither Lizza, nor Gruber replied to a request for comment. Gruber did not reply to several emails.

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