WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — CBS News has uncovered a new video where economist Jonathan Gruber, a consultant who helped the White House craft the Affordable Care Act, says that states who opposed the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare are “not interested in covering poor people.”
The Gruber video originally appeared on HealthInsurance.org in April.
“There’s larger principles at stake here. When these states are not just turning down covering the poor people, but turning down the federal stimulus that would come with that,” Gruber said.
He continued, “They’re not just not interested in covering poor people, they’re willing to sacrifice billions of dollars in injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. I mean, it really is just almost awesome in its evilness.”
Gruber said in a 2013 recording that Obamacare passed thanks to “the stupidity of the American voter.” According to CBS News, a 2011 clip shows him describing how the law’s authors “mislabeled” a new tax on high-end insurance plans that will go into effect in 2018.
“And the only way we could take it on was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people, when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans,” he explained.
In 2012, Gruber described how former Sen. Ted Kennedy ripped off the federal government for hundreds of millions of dollars to craft a universal health bill for Massachusetts.
“The dirty secret in Massachusetts is the feds paid for our bill, okay, in Massachusetts,” Gruber said in the recording obtained by CBS News. “Ted Kennedy and the smart people in Massachusetts basically figured out a way to rip off the feds for about $400 million a year.”
Following the release of the videos, Gruber agreed to finish his work on Vermont’s health insurance systems for free, a top state official said Wednesday.
But the state will continue to pay assistants working with Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who advised the Obama administration as it crafted the Affordable Care Act.
Vermont will likely end up paying about $280,000 of the original $450,000 the state had agreed to pay Gruber’s team and a subcontractor, said Lawrence Miller, director of health reform for Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Gruber and his team have been analyzing options for financing a universal health care system, sometimes known as single-payer, that Shumlin hopes to launch later this decade. The administration is set to present its financing plan to lawmakers in January.
Miller spoke during an orientation day for newly elected lawmakers at the Statehouse on Wednesday, saying Gruber’s comments were “offensive, inappropriate and do not reflect the thinking of this administration or how we do things in Vermont.” But he added, “As we have also said, we need solid economic modeling in order to move forward with health care reform.”
Gruber said in an email Wednesday that he did not want to comment.
Miller said in a later interview that he had garnered an agreement from Gruber that the state would no longer pay Gruber any money, but would continue to pay $100 per staff hour for work done by Gruber’s assistants. He said the work would be reviewed by four other economic consultants and by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office.
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