In an interview in which she tried to distance herself from Jonathan Gruber’s remarks about how Obamacare was crafted, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sounded a lot like the MIT economist.
“I think one of the things that we have learned with the passage of the law … is a lot of Americans have no idea what insurance is about,” Sebelius told USA Today.
Sebelius served as Health and Human Services secretary from the beginning of President Obama’s first term through this June. She came under heavy fire for the federal health law’s rocky roll-out.
Consumers “have no idea, even if they have coverage, what it means, what a deductible is, what a co-pay is, how to choose a network,” Sebelius said, adding that those were “complicated terms.”
“I think the financial literacy of a lot of people — particularly people who did not have insurance coverage or whose employers choose their coverage and kind of present it to them — is very low,” said Sebelius. “And that has be a sort of stunning revelation, and it’s not because anybody hid it from folks, it’s that this is a complicated product.”
In citing the public’s low financial literacy, Sebelius sounded a lot like Gruber who, at a speech at the University of Rhode Island in 2012, said that the passage of one portion of Obamacare — the so-called Cadillac tax — involved “a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
In another video recording from 2013 that surfaced last month, Gruber said that “the stupidity of the American voter” was “really really critical for the thing to pass.”
“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber continued. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”
Sebelius denied that Gruber was an “architect” of Obamacare, as many have called him. She told USA Today that she has never met with Gruber and said he was “one of many” consultants on the federal health bill. She did concede that Gruber could be considered an “architect” of Romneycare, the Massachusetts health care bill passed during then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s term.
Romneycare served as a template for Obamacare.
“Clearly he is not very articulate with the phrasing that he uses,” Sebelius said of Gruber, who is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next week to answer for his remarks.
“Frankly I don’t think it’s relevant in terms of his personal opinions of what happened,” Sebelius continued. “He was not an author of the bill itself. He didn’t influence the members of Congress who actually wrote the legislation.”
That last statement — that Gruber did not influence members of Congress on the law — is completely refuted by remarks that at least one prominent lawmaker made while Obamcare was being crafted.
In a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Oct. 2009, then-Sen. John Kerry said, of the Cadillac tax, said that Gruber “has been our guide on a lot of this.” (RELATED: John Kerry Called Gruber ‘Our Guide On A Lot Of This’)
In her interview, Sebelius stuck to the claim that the health care roll-out was transparent, a claim that even some Obamacare supporters have called into question during the implementation of the law.
“I can’t imagine a process that was more open and transparent,” Sebelius said.