Despite the Supreme Court ruling 6-3 today that the states without exchanges would still be eligible for Federal subsidies, the law remains highly unpopular due to the “Government knows best” approach taken by lawmakers to get it passed.
On March 23, 2010, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law. It was passed through the Senate via reconciliation to eliminate the necessary super majority needed. It was rammed down the throats of the American public.
The climate of the country at the time was extremely apprehensive due to the ongoing Great Recession. Having a government takeover of nearly 1/5th of the economy seemed like an odd thing to be doing while we were racking up record deficits during a negative growth period.
Conservatives were united in their disgust for this sloppy legislation that lacked transparency. Having a fundamental disagreement with the other party’s agenda is nothing new, but when those selling a major entitlement have been downright dishonest, it leads to real resentment.
“You have to pass the law to see what’s in it” — the famous quote by Nancy Pelosi trying to convince everyone that the law was in their best interest, except that the lawmakers who were advocating for it were too lazy to actually read it.
This was also during the president’s big push to assuage the public with, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Those statements have turned out to be blatantly false to those in the individual market. It was striking how many times the President repeated these lines on the sale’s pitch for Obamacare. It was either deceitful or complete ignorance of his legacy-defining legislation.
Then comes Jonathan Gruber. He was the MIT Professor who worked on a lot of the financial modeling for the ACA under his $400,000 government contract. He reaffirmed what Republicans had been saying throughout the entire process: You need the young and healthy to pay substantially more to offset the cost of the old and sick.
Video surfaced right after the midterms in 2014 of when he was on a panel to discuss the ACA at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. He was caught saying that the lack of transparency in the development of the bill was “a huge political advantage” in order to muddy the waters with the voters who he said “were too stupid to know the difference.”
He trotted out a bunch of charts and diagrams about how this was going to help everyone, when he knew that the numbers didn’t add up. He knew the young and healthy were getting a terrible deal, but the White House could never be honest about that.
When pressed on Gruber’s involvement with the law, Democrats scurried like ants hit with Raid. Obama said he was just “some adviser that never worked on our staff.” Nancy Pelosi, who just never seems to get her foot out of her mouth, famously said, “I don’t know who he is,” despite a video of her naming him during the snake-oil sales process.
The response from her office was that she didn’t know him personally, so he was good enough to reference when you are selling a massive entitlement bill, but because you are not on the same bowling team, he is a stranger.
The fallout from Gruber’s comments was headlined for about two days in the 24-hour news cycle we live in, and then the mainstream media buried it. Obamacare was all about the ends, and the means were not that important.
Fast forward to this past week when The Wall Street Journal received 20,000 emails between Gruber and federal officials who were working on the healthcare bill in 2009 and 2010. It appears that Gruber was much more than a bit player in the construction of the Bill. He was repeatedly talking about “winners and losers” of the bill, but somehow any discussion of anyone being a loser was lost in the White House messaging.
He was corresponding with Peter Orzag (director of Office of Management and Budget), and he even met with President Obama. Jeanne Lambrew was a top Obama administration health adviser who worked at HHS and the White House. She corresponded to Gruber, "Thank you for being an integral part of getting us to this historic moment" in September of 2009. In another email in November of 2009, she referred to him as "our hero."
This law is in tatters. Democrats are trying to trot out enrollment numbers, but the teeth of the bill has not hit yet. The risk pools are in a death spiral with young people opting out, and the penalties being pushed out so as not to upset the electorate.
This should not be surprising given that a law was built on fuzzy math, deceit, backroom deals with political allies, and promises that could not possibly be kept. The law will fall of its own weight. It's time to start over.
Kevin Broderick serves as a consultant for a Fortune 500 Insurer in the Employee Benefits marketplace for large employers. He received a finance degree from Providence College. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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