Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nothing To See Here: The Obamacare architect two-step

When Romneycare/Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber was exposed on video affirming the ACA was designed to withhold subsidies for insurance policies not sold through an exchange established by a state, conservatives tended to connect that to a pair of relevant court cases.

So did we.  But at about the same time, we at PolitiFact Bias wondered whether there's anything to see here from a fact-checking perspective.

Sure, Gruber's remarks tend to pull the rug out from under the administration's insistence that it's appropriately following the law by extending insurance subsidies through the federal exchange system.  It's a big political story based on that alone.  But when Gruber insists that what he said was a "speak-o," the verbal equivalent of a typo, it seems like a fact checker might be interested.

On the other hand, a fact checker that leans left might have a special motivation for either ignoring the story or, even better, placing a special spin on it.

We're here to help.  Here's Gruber, as quoted in the left-leaning The New Republic:
It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or worked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.
And here's Gruber speaking in 2010 Jan. 2012:

Transcript ours (major hat tip to John Sexton for posting the audio), bold emphasis added:
The third risk and the one folks aren't talking about, what may be most important of all, is the role of the states.  Through a political compromise, the decision was made that states should play a critical role in running these health insurance exchanges.  And health insurance exchanges are the centerpiece of this reform.  Because they are the place the (citizens?) can go to shop for their new, securely priced health insurance.  But if they're not set up in a way which is transparent, and which is convenient for shoppers, and which allow people to take their tax credits and use them to (effectively?) buy health insurance, it will undercut the whole purpose of the bill.  Now, a number of states have expressed no interest in doing so.  A number of states, like California, have been a real leader, one of, I think it was the first state to pass an exchange bill.  It's been a leader in setting up its exchange--a great example.  But California's rare. Only about 10 states have really moved forward aggressively in setting up their exchanges.  A number of states have even turned down millions of dollars in federal government grants as a statement of some sort.  They don't support health care reform.  Now, I guess I'm enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange, the politicians of the state are costing citizens in that state hundreds of millions and billions of dollars that they'll eventually throw the guys out.  But, I don't know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat is will, will people understand that, gee, if your government doesn't set up an exchange you're losing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits to be delivered to your citizens.  So that's the other threat, will states do anything to set it up.
 And here's Gruber in 2012, via Forbes and Michael F. Cannon:
"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."
I'll be completely impressed if PolitiFact treats Gruber to anything lower than a "Half True" on this.  It cuts too deeply a health care reform bill PolitiFact has tried to defend from attacks both real and imagined.

More likely there's nothing to see here.

Jeff adds:

We won't hold our breath waiting for them to weigh in on such a comically embarrassing situation for the liberal side of this debate. But, as we tweeted out on Friday, Angie Holan has several options available to her:

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