Embattled MIT economist Jonathan Gruber once disagreed with a bold claim made repeatedly by then-Sen. Barack Obama on the 2008 presidential campaign trail that the average American family would save $2,500 on their premiums per year under his health-care plan.
“We’ll work to lower your premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year,” Obama told an audience on Sept. 6, 2008. He made a similar claim at least 18 more times stump speeches during the campaign.
But that was news at the time to Gruber, who later advised the Obama administration on the creation of Obamacare and is now at the center of a firestorm for candid remarks he made about how the administration duped the American public in order to get the health law passed.
“I know zero credible evidence to support that conclusion,” Gruber told the non-partisan FactCheck.org in Feb. 2008 about proposals offered by Obama and his Democratic challenger at the time, Hillary Clinton.
Clinton claimed that her plan — which, unlike Obama’s, included the individual mandate — would save the average American family $2,200 per year. Obama said he plan would save families $2,500.
Gruber also offered his candid suggestion for how to actually control health-care costs.
“At the end of the day, the only way to control health-care costs in America is to deny Americans health care they want,” Gruber said.
He was seemingly referring to what has been dubbed the Cadillac tax, which is a 40-percent excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans. Some economists, including Gruber, believe that the Cadillac tax will shore up inefficiencies in the health-care system and “bend the cost curve,” which will save money in the long term.
“Basically, we just don’t know. We just have no clue what it’s going to do,” Gruber added.
Obama’s $2,500 figure appears to have originated with a trio of Obama campaign health-care policy advisers. In a 2007 memo, the advisers wrote that the $2,500 was a “best-guess” that encompassed not just savings on premiums but overall health-care cost savings stemming from “improved health IT, better disease management, reduced insurance overhead, reinsurance, and reduced uncompensated care.”
But on the campaign trail, Obama adopted the easier-to-understand statement that the average family would save $2,500 per year on their insurance premiums.
In 2008, one of those advisers, Harvard University’s David Cutler, explained to The New York Times that “what we’re trying to do is find a way to talk to people in a way they understand.”
It is unclear when the Obama team dropped the $2,500 average premium savings figure. It is also unclear if Gruber had any hand in convincing the Obama team to do so. Gruber told PBS in 2012 that he began working for the Obama transition team shortly after the 2008 election “to help put the numbers together for the administration.”
He was ultimately paid $392,600 by the Obama administration for his work on Obamacare. The so-called Obamacare architect had previously helped create Romneycare, which served as the model for Obamacare.
Reached via email, Gruber told The Daily Caller that he is not offering comments at this time.