Liberals are now in damage control mode on the heels of the discovery of not one but two videos of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber claiming in January 2012 that the subsidies for that program were limited to exchanges set up by the states. Their contention is that while Gruber might have worked closely with Congress to create the Obamacare bill, he is still not Congress. The other claim is that there is no document that backs up what they consider to be merely a Gruber "Speak-O."
Newsflash folks! Your humble correspondent has come upon a 2011 General Accounting Office report to the Senate that confirms Speak-O Gruber. I will present the relevant quote after the jump but first let us review the Gruber excuse to Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic Friday that has popularized the word "speak-o."
I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake. People make mistakes. Congress made a mistake drafting the law and I made a mistake talking about it.
During this era, at this time, the federal government was trying to encourage as many states as possible to set up their exchanges. ...
At this time, there was also substantial uncertainty about whether the federal backstop would be ready on time for 2014. I might have been thinking that if the federal backstop wasn't ready by 2014, and states hadn't set up their own exchange, there was a risk that citizens couldn't get the tax credits right away. ...
But there was never any intention to literally withhold money, to withhold tax credits, from the states that didn’t take that step. That’s clear in the intent of the law and if you talk to anybody who worked on the law. My subsequent statement was just a speak-o—you know, like a typo.
There are few people who worked as closely with Obama administration and Congress as I did, and at no point was it ever even implied that there’d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange. And that was the basis of all the modeling I did, and that was the basis of any sensible analysis of this law that’s been done by any expert, left and right.
I didn’t assume every state would set up its own exchanges but I assumed that subsidies would be available in every state. It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or w,orked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.
Yeah, just an off-the-cuff "speak-o" made while answering a question. Except that Gruber also made the same "speak-o" in prepared remarks just a few days earlier in January 2012:
Jonathan Cohn's reaction was to declare that, "... it doesn't change my view that the architects of Obamacare wanted everybody to have subsidies, no matter what decision their state officials made about the marketplaces."
Really, Mr. Cohn? Unfortunately you are not only contradicted by Speak-O Gruber but also by this June 2011 GAO report to the U.S. Senate about IRS responsibilities in the implementation of Obamacare according to the exchange provisions. The relevant sentence that confirms the observations of Speak-O Gruber can be found on page 16 of the GAO report (page 23 of the pdf file):
Established refundable premium assistance tax credits for eligible individuals purchasing health insurance coverage on state exchanges.
In case that is not clear enough for you what is meant by exchanges, this same GAO report spells it out for you on page 9 (page 16 on the pdf file) of this report:
Health care exchanges, to be established by states by 2014, are marketplaces for individuals and certain types of employers to purchase health insurance.
Nowhere in the report are federal exchanges set up for the states even mentioned.
An oatmeal cookie to the liberal who provides the most amusing excuse for this GAO confirmation of Speak-O Gruber's premise. I am expecting great things from Jonathan Cohn but I think Sarah Kliff of General Electric Vox will give him some strong competition.