In the News: Blog

The newly exposed videos of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber revealing that the “Affordable” Care Act was sold to America with lies is a scandal, but not because it’s a shock.

Instead, they’re a scandal because they confirms something many Americans have been suspecting for a long time – that a lot of Obamacare backers knew the promises were just smoke.

Take the idea that no one would be forced to change plans – “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” as President Obama put it. We now know this was a lie. But at this point, what difference does it make?

It makes this difference: It’s not just that President Obama knew that millions of Americans would be forced off health plans they chose. It’s that his backers now casually admit that Americans will have to get used to shopping for new insurance – and new doctors – every year if they want their care to be affordable.

The New York Times reported this in a matter-of-fact way, saying that of course people should shop for new plans annually if they want to avoid “big price increases.”

So while it’s true that in many places, the lowest-price plan on the government-run “exchanges” is only 3% or 4% more costly than the different plan that was lowest priced last year, “people who just stay in the plan that was cheapest — and most popular — in 2014 are looking at much bigger increases. The average rate increase for those plans across the country is 9.7 percent,” the Times reports. This is in line with what another study, by a high-profile health consultancy, said on Thursday.

The figure is higher in much of Wisconsin, the Times reports. In Milwaukee, renewing what was the cheapest “silver” plan in 2014 will mean a 15.3% rate increase in 2015. In Green Bay, staying with 2014’s insurance plan will mean a 14.4% price increase.

The Times points out that this isn’t an accident. It’s the way Obamacare was designed, as a substitute for introducing real free-market reforms to restrain underlying health care costs. Instead, consumers will pay in many ways:

“Switching plans has its costs — in many cases, it means changing doctors and drug lists. It also may mean mastering new deductibles, co-payments and other benefit structures. But it’s clear that if price is the most important thing, most Americans who bought the most popular plan in 2014 would be better off switching to something new for 2015.”

And, by design, just keeping your plan won’t be easy:

“Even consumers who are sure that renewing their current plan is worth paying a higher premium should still consider returning to the marketplace website to update their information. The subsidies that middle-income shoppers receive to help them pay their premiums are based on their income and the price of a special plan in the marketplace, called the ‘benchmark.’

“People who don’t re-enter their information will receive the same subsidy as last year, regardless of what happens to their income and the benchmark. That means that it’s easy to end up underpaying and getting hit with a big bill at tax time.”

Do you remember being told any of this when Obamacare was being sold? The people who designed the system understood what was coming, at least a little. As the talkative Jonathan Gruber put it on video, they depended on American voters not catching on in time.

It isn’t just that Obamacare was sold on a foundation of lies, as the newly revealed videos from Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber show. What is even worse is the way the Obama administration thought it was doing America a favor by lying.

Marc A. Thiessen makes this point in the Washington Post. Democrats are now desperately saying they never knew who Jonathan Gruber was, and no wonder:

“The reason Democrats are running from Gruber is the same reason conservatives should be thanking him: Gruber has exposed what liberals really think of the American people.”

Democrats certainly did know who Gruber was. The Obama administration paid him $392,000 to “develop proposals” for health care as Obamacare was being written, and it used him to lend credibility to the plan as it was being sold.

The Daily Signal points out that Gruber wrote a comic book in 2011 to help sell the Obamacare scheme – one in which Gruber’s character relays the lie that you can keep your plan:

“When one of the characters, a white male, tells Gruber he fears Obamacare will ‘muck up’ his existing health plan, the Obamacare architect reassures the man that if he likes his plan, he can keep it.”

The comic was lauded by the Washington Post and the New York Times as the testimony of an expert. Big-name Democrats certainly knew Gruber back then:

“Gruber’s comic book received praise from other Obamacare advocates. In a blurb, then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the book is ‘fun and informative, and it boils down the facts of health care reform for all Americans.’”

“Boils down” – since then, the videos of Gruber discussing the “stupidity” of American voters make it plain that this boiling down involved lying. Thiessen in the Washington Post points out that Gruber’s leader, President Obama, lied, too, about whether you could keep your plan and about whether the mandate to buy a plan on his “exchange” is a tax. He lied, like Gruber lied, to get Americans to buy something they didn’t want but that Obama and Gruber felt they ought to want. Thiessen writes:

“It’s one thing for Americans to suspect that their president lies to them. It’s quite another to hear a key Obama adviser boast of it.

“So thank you, Jonathan Gruber. We now know how the Obama left sees the American people. We are like children who don’t understand what is best for us. We need experts such as Jonathan Gruber to make decisions for us. If we are too ‘stupid’ to agree with them, they can use our ignorance to deceive us and enact policies we would never otherwise support. And if we’re too stupid to catch the deception, well, that’s our problem.”

I received this email from a Milwaukee woman the other day:

"I support President Obama 110%, but I have to tell you that Obamacare is NOT working for my family. The policies are just terrible and very expensive. The less expensive plans are just catastrophic and will not cover any of our average medical needs. How much money is a family expected to pay for health insurance? Am I unrealistic?

"$700-1000 a month for a somewhat decent plan, that actually covers the doctors we have come to know and trust, is a huge hit for this family. We had to drop the coverage we signed up for because we found it covered nothing, and then we had a client who didn't pay my freelancer husband. We were hoping things would be better this November, but they are not, and we are finding ourselves having to resolve to throw money out the door every month, in case of an emergency, on top of all our visits, which include my husband with MS, my 11 year old daughter with a heart condition. Did I mention that dental care is not included AT ALL??????!!!!!!!! Is there anything you can do to help?"

It won’t be easy to help. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but even after the newly elected members of Congress get to Washington in January, the president who promised you’d be able to keep your doctor will still be able to veto anything Congress does to relieve the pain that the “Affordable” Care Act is imposing.

But we have to try. We just had an election. President Obama said his policies were on the ballot. The least we can do is see whether some Democrats have changed their minds about those policies, including the policy that’s causing premiums to skyrocket for Wisconsinites. I don’t expect the president would agree with what we pass, but we have to start working to undo the damage that Obamacare has already wrought.

It’s scandalous that economics professor Jonathan Gruber has been caught on video saying that Obamacare was pushed through Congress on the basis of a pack of lies because Gruber is rightly acknowledged as an “architect of Obamacare.”

What is even more telling is how long we have known that deception was involved in the “Affordable” Care Act’s expansion of government power.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that there are now four videos on which Gruber tells insider audiences that Obamacare’s real costs were hidden from Americans who couldn’t be trusted with the truth. There’s the video where he says the “stupidity of the American voter” meant the costs had to be concealed to pass the bill. Then another emerged in which Gruber praised the way then-Sen. John Kerry figured out how to deceive voters about taxes on their insurance:

The news that the economist dubbed the “architect of Obamacare” was caught admitting that the program deliberately hid the cost from the American public is disappointing. It isn’t surprising.

Avik Roy of Forbes explains the story of the devastating admission by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber:

“New video surfaced in which Gruber said that 'the stupidity of the American voter' made it important for him and Democrats to hide Obamacare’s true costs from the public. 'That was really, really critical for the thing to pass,' said Gruber. 'But I’d rather have this law than not.' In other words, the ends—imposing Obamacare upon the public—justified the means.

"The new Gruber comments come from a panel discussion that he joined on October 17, 2013 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. He was joined on the panel by Penn health economist Mark Pauly. Patrick Howley of the Daily Caller was the first to flag Gruber’s remarks.”

This isn’t Gruber’s first embarrassing moment of candor about Obamacare. The law says that federal subsidies can only go to people living in states that set up their own government-run “exchanges,” and not to people in states, like Wisconsin, that instead rely on the federal exchange. Democrats claim this is a mistake or a misunderstanding of the law because it would throw a wrench in their plans to shift costs around. Gruber, however, was caught on video in 2012 saying that the law was supposed to do what Democrats now say it doesn’t do. He said it was a surreptitious way of forcing states to go along with the law.

Now, the new video shows him admitting another way Obamacare was trying to fool the public. The White House hurried to deny that what Gruber said was true, but this was the same White House that said if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor. Judge the latest denial accordingly.

Meanwhile, Forbes’ Roy points out that the so-called Affordable Care Act, which instituted Obamacare, really was too bad a deal to pass honestly:

"Gruber made an argument that many of Obamacare’s critics have long made, including me. It’s that the law’s complex system of insurance regulation is a way of concealing from voters what Obamacare really is: a huge redistribution of wealth from the young and healthy to the old and unhealthy. In the video, Gruber points out that if Democrats had been honest about these facts, and that the law’s individual mandate is in effect a major tax hike, Obamacare would never have passed Congress.

“ 'Mark [Pauly] made a couple of comments that I do want to take issue with, one about transparency in financing and the other is about moving from community rating to risk-rated subsidies. You can’t do it politically. You just literally cannot do it, okay, transparent financing…and also transparent spending.' Gruber said. 'In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in—you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed, okay. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass…Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.’ ”

And we do have the law. It is transferring costs — not just risk, as insurance would, but actual known costs — from some people to others. This makes health coverage costlier than it needs to be for many people. The scheme also involves taxes, mandates and regulations enough already to stifle innovation and push doctors toward leaving their profession. It has done nothing to make health care more affordable — Wisconsinites routinely tell me of health premiums rising by rates well into the double digits — and it did so for only a small increase in the share of uninsured people who gained health coverage.

So it’s not surprising that this terrible bargain passed by deception, or that the program’s architect thinks that Americans were too stupid to be trusted with the truth. It is disappointing, but when the president’s most high-profile promise about the program was judged the lie of the year by PolitiFact, it isn’t surprising.

Small companies are increasingly dropping the idea of providing their employees with health insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports, and assuming that workers instead will be fine if they’re dumped onto Obamacare’s government-run “exchanges.”

I told you long ago that this would happen: Employers will see the chance to save money and make their workers eligible for government subsidies. They will act accordingly.

Insurers who sell coverage to small companies are now noticing the trend, the paper reports. They’re seeing faster declines in that line of business than they had expected. The Wall Street Journal explains employers’ thinking:
A new report finds sharp increases in the cost of health coverage under Obamacare. The Washington Times reported that the study found premiums could rise for some people “by as much as 78 percent.”

I was asked about the story when I talked with J.D. Hayworth on Newsmax TV on Wednesday. The simple fact is that while people can predict, no one knows how much premiums are going to rise. Even those whose business it is to track rate increases, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, say their figure should be used “with extreme caution,” a statewide average that “has little relationship to an increase in any consumer's actual premium rate.”
People with costly chronic medical conditions are getting health coverage thanks to Obamacare, the New York Times reports – but they’re finding they can barely afford the high deductibles.

“Patricia Wanderlich got insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year, and with good reason: She suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2011, spending weeks in a hospital intensive care unit, and has a second, smaller aneurysm that needs monitoring.

“But her new plan has a $6,000 annual deductible, meaning that Ms. Wanderlich, who works part time at a landscaping company outside Chicago, has to pay for most of her medical services up to that amount. She is skipping this year’s brain scan and hoping for the best.
When I describe Obamacare as the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime, I can cite many reasons, from the massive tax increases to the incredible pile of new regulations to the unprecedented federal mandate to buy something.

It’s not appreciated enough just what we lose when freedom is crushed. One huge loss is the American innovation in medicine, from drugs to devices to surgical techniques. As Scott Atlas, a physician now at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, pointed out last week in the Wall Street Journal, that innovation mostly has happened in the United States, and the majority of it has been funded by private investment.

But, Atlas points out, that investment in innovation has slowed dramatically, especially amid the miserably weak recovery of the past five years. He writes: