Gruber to Apologize, Walk Back ‘Lack of Transparency’ Comments

Obamacare architect to deny he was an Obamacare architect at Tuesday hearing

Jonathan Gruber / AP
December 9, 2014

A controversial professor who helped devise Obamacare will apologize to a House committee on Tuesday and attempt to walk back comments about the law’s passage that he says were "uninformed" and "offensive."

"I would like to begin by apologizing sincerely for the offending comments that I made," Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber will tell the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to an advance copy of his testimony obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Gruber’s comments refer to a series of videos that denigrated "the stupidity of the American voter" and referred in an offhand fashion to attempts to game the Congressional Budget Office’s fiscal score of the law as it worked its way through Congress.

"I know better. I knew better. I am embarrassed, and I am sorry," Gruber will tell the committee.

However, he will also attempt to backtrack claims that Obamacare only passed due to "a lack of transparency" in the legislative process.

"Let me be very clear: I do not think that the Affordable Care Act was passed in a non-transparent fashion," he will tell the committee.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the merits of [some of Obamacare’s revenue raising provisions], but it is completely clear that these issues were debated thoroughly during the drafting and passage of the ACA," he will say.

That is a marked departure from his comments since the law passed. "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," he said in one recently released video seized on by Obamacare opponents as evidence of Democrats’ legislative chicanery.

Gruber’s testimony will not address his relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009 and 2010 that critics say presented his macroeconomic analyses of the law as objective even though he was on the department’s payroll.

HHS, the White House, congressional Democrats, and numerous Obamacare supporters in the media touted Gruber’s analyses as definitive evidence of Obamacare’s positive fiscal impacts.

Neither Gruber nor the administration disclosed that he was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by HHS to act as an adviser during Obamacare’s legislative stages.

During his Tuesday testimony Gruber will also attempt to head off arguments that the law was written to provide health insurance subsidies only through insurance exchanges established by the various states.

That question is at the heart of an ongoing Supreme Court case that could invalidate subsidies offered in exchanges offered by the federal government. Obamacare supporters say the provision was simply a drafting error. Others say HHS must abide by the law as written.

"I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits," Gruber said in 2012.

He will walk back those comments on Tuesday.

"I have a long-standing and well-documented belief that health care reform legislation in general, and the ACA in particular, must include mechanisms for residents in all states to obtain tax credits," he will tell the committee.

Gruber’s critics say his explanation is wanting.

"Gruber new claim that he was referring to only the hypothetical in which no federal exchange is built is the biggest whopper of a lie yet from a boastful master of deception," said Phil Kerpen, president of the conservative group American Commitment, which has criticized the MIT professor’s recently released statements.

"He expressly said on two occasions and clearly implied on at least five others that tax credits depended on state exchanges. Full stop," Kerpen said in an email. "His new proviso is as laughably false as when Obama re-explained 'you can keep your plan' with 'if it hasn't changed' after mass cancellations hit."

Despite numerous press reports referring to Gruber as an "architect" of Obamacare, he will dispute that moniker at today’s hearing.