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The Flip-Flopping Architect of the ACA

July 28, 2014 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Last week, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Obama administration has been implementing Obamacare illegally. Days later, a video featuring the law’s chief architect confirmed the court’s ruling and raised questions about whether administration officials knew they were breaking the law all along.

Jonathan Gruber is the MIT economist who helped congressional Democrats write the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009. He has been sharply critical of Halbig v. Burwell, a lawsuit alleging the Obama administration is illegally subsidizing health insurance for 5 million Americans in the 36 states with exchanges established by the federal government. The PPACA offers those subsidies to only those who enroll through an exchange “established by the State.” (Disclosure: I helped lay the groundwork for Halbig and three similar lawsuits.)

Obamacare’s chief architect admits it withholds tax credits in uncooperative states.”

The administration’s supporters have called those lawsuits an “existential threat” to the PPACA. They’re right. Without those subsidies, exchange enrollees in two-thirds of the country would face the full cost of Obamacare coverage. The resulting backlash would force Congress to reopen the law.

The administration’s defenders responded to the Halbig case by insisting that Congress never intended to withhold subsidies from residents of states that did not establish exchanges. Like the Obama administration, Gruber told the D.C. Circuit that this idea is “implausible.” The D.C. Circuit disagreed when it ruled for the plaintiffs last Tuesday.

Gruber then became part of the story on Thursday when a video surfaced in which he espouses the very interpretation of the law he now publicly derides as “screwy,” “nutty” and “stupid.” In 2012, Gruber told an audience: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

The administration’s “implausibility” argument was itself always implausible. Even the 4th Circuit rejected it when it ruled in favor of the government (in King v. Burwellon the same day the D.C. Circuit ruled for the plaintiffs. The Gruber video demolishes that argument.

Gruber’s stature and role in writing the PPACA are critical here. One of the nation’s top health economists, he helped craft and implement a nearly identical law in Massachusetts. He was a paid adviser to the Obama administration in 2009 and 2010. The New York Times reports, “the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.”

Gruber was so heavily …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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