Economist and well-paid healthcare reform consultant Jonathan Gruber is appearing before Congress today, apologizing profusely and repeatedly about his earlier videotaped remarks that the public was too stupid to understand Obamacare and that the Affordable Care Act was sold to the American voter through deception.
He was grilled by Republicans at his first appearance on Capitol Hill since videos of his remarks surfaced. Lawmakers were also going at Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for allegedly inflating enrollment numbers.
According to Fox News, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Gruber: "You made a series of troubling statements that were not only an insult to the American people, but revealed a pattern of intentional misleading [of] the public about the true impact and nature of Obamacare."
Gruber, who says he is neither a political adviser nor a politician, admitted his comments were in fact "glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting."
He also backtracked a bit on his earlier assertion that a lack of transparency helped the law pass. He said before Congress he does not think it was passed in a "non-transparent fashion."
"I behaved badly. And I'll have to live with that. But my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act."
Gruber is a professor of economics at MIT, and is also the director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He stated in his remarks that he did not help "draft" any of the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform legislation known as "Romneycare." And he was not the "architect" of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare." Gruber said he was merely paid to provide complex economic "microsimulation modeling" to "assess the likely outcomes of various possible policy choices."
In one of the videotaped speeches that caused so much consternation on both sides of the political aisle, Gruber said no economist would ever set up a health system with a tax subsidy for an employer to provide health insurance.
"It's a terrible policy. It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of. And the only way we could take it on was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people. And we all know it's really a tax on people who hold these insurance plans."
Fox says the videos of Gruber's remarks have renewed Republican concerns over the health care law, and the way in which it was drafted and passed.
It remains to be seen, though, how much momentum the Republicans can create toward changing the law. President Obama says he will veto any effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, should such a bill reach his desk after Republicans take control of the Senate in January.