Obamacare Architect: Proposed Fixes Will Undermine It

Image: Obamacare Architect: Proposed Fixes Will Undermine It Jonathan Gruber.

Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 03:52 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Proposed changes to fix problems with Obamacare could undermine the healthcare law, one of its architects, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, told MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."

"I think changing [Obamacare] could significantly undermine it. It obviously depends on what Congress does," Gruber said Wednesday.

A bill proposed by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to grandfather people faced with losing individual health insurance for a year "could have a very serious negative effect" on Obamacare, Gruber said.

He described a second bill proposed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., as a "real disaster" that is "designed purely to undermine the law."

One goal of the Affordable Care Act was to force "a small minority of Americans" to lose their current insurance plans, Gruber said.

The only options for these people are to pay a penalty or buy insurance through Obamacare.

The designers of the law were aware that roughly 5 percent of people who had individual policies would lose them, he explained.

"It's 12 million people, about 1/3 of which will end up paying more under this law.
That . . . is, sort of, the idea," Gruber said.

"We currently have a highly discriminatory system where, if you're sick, if you've been sick, if you are going to get sick, you cannot get health insurance. The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price," Gruber explained.

The bottom line is that people who have been paying an "artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more," he said.

A temporary solution Gruber proposed for people losing their health insurance, which would leave the law intact, is a tax credit for one or two years to smooth the transition. He said the problem with that plan is it "requires a Congress that's willing to cooperate," which he said it won't.

Enrollment numbers at this point are not important, Gruber said. He said the real test would be how many healthy and unhealthy people sign up for Obamacare.

"It's not really the numbers that matter so much as, ultimately, the health mix. Are we getting in young and healthy people?" Gruber asked.

"Insurers have in mind some mix of healthy and not healthy. As long as the mix comes in where insurers expected, they'll be able to meet the goals they set with very low rates. And, we won't suffer rate shock next year," he explained.

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