To gruber (v., t.); to offer deceptive justifications for an unpopular proposal in order to persuade those you consider “stupid” to accept it.

The Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” is facing a new test: In a case titled King v. Burwell, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule next year on the legality of tax-credit subsidies for coverage offered in the 34 states where no state-level insurance exchange has been established.

If the court decides that the federal exchange now covering such states (including Maine) cannot offer those subsidies, it could deal a crushing blow to the law.

Meanwhile, the ACA is growing increasingly unpopular.

In a Nov. 17 report headlined, “Gallup: New ‘numerical low’ for Obamacare,” the Politico website ( noted that, “Support for Obamacare continues to decline. … Just 37 percent approve of the Affordable Care Act, 1 percentage point less than the previous low recorded in January, Gallup found in a new survey released Monday.”

The story noted that the program’s second enrollment season kicked off on Saturday, with “minor snags” (one of which was that enrollments remain below projections).


It added, “Enthusiasm for the law remains underwhelming. A majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, at 56 percent — a new high, Gallup said.”

And it might get more unpopular: The New York Times reported Nov. 14 that the Obama administration said last week that many of the 7 million Americans with coverage under the ACA “could face substantial price increases next year — in some cases as much as 20 percent — unless they switch plans.”

Of course, less expensive plans likely will offer less coverage and less reimbursement for care.

That means the six videos featuring MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber that have acquired millions of viewers online remain important, as they cast light not only on the ACA’s unpopularity but on the Supreme Court’s potential ruling.

Though widely ignored by major networks, Gruber’s speeches about his role in developing the ACA are clearly newsworthy (search “#Grubergate supercut” for a 2-minute digest).

Gruber was paid nearly $400,000 to advise the White House about the ACA (and perhaps as much as $5 million more by state governments, including Maine’s, to use his econometric models). That makes his later comments extremely telling.


Those speeches, recorded from 2009 to 2013, feature Gruber saying that Obamacare’s funding and coverage provisions had to be concealed from “stupid voters” in order to pass the law. He also described how a tax increase for higher-level “Cadillac” plans was concealed by passing it through insurance premiums.

That has left Democrats, who enacted the Affordable Care Act with no Republican support, stumbling to downplay Gruber’s well-documented role in the program’s development in a fog-spewing series of evasions now being called “Guberish.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at first denied knowing who he was, but she was recorded in 2009 recommending his analysis of the ACA.

Then the president got into the denial game: As noted Sunday, “First, Obama described Gruber as ‘some adviser who never worked on our staff.’ … (But) while Gruber didn’t take the pay cut that joining Obama’s staff may have cost him, certainly he was specifically sought out and retained by the administration as a key figure in their efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act.”

It reported that in early 2009, “just one month after President Obama took office, the Department of Health and Human Services put out a sole-source solicitation titled ‘Technical Assistance in Evaluating Options for Health Reform.’ The contract would be with Gruber, who the document said was the only person ‘reasonably available to satisfy agency requirements.'”

And as National Review Online ( reported Monday, “Gruber visited the White House nearly 20 times, according to official visitor logs (in one video, Gruber said at least one of those visits involved face time with Obama).


NRO continued, “The White House actively promoted his work on Obamacare and touted his testimony to Senate committees as ‘objective analysis’ (concealing that it was paying him to provide it). The Washington Post reported that Gruber’s model of the law’s costs was ‘the coin of the realm’ in the debate and ‘a very powerful tool for administration officials.'”

Indeed, his influence may yet spread to the Supreme Court’s chambers.

In 2012, Gruber was recorded as saying, “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. … I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges.”

What better expert witness could there be to prove that the decision to limit the subsidies to state exchanges was fully intentional — and intentionally coercive?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected]

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