Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is a 501 (c) (4) organization of individuals and businesses who are deeply concerned about health care reforms being implemented by Governor Shumlin, and seek patient-centered reforms that protect the traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Health Care Reform Newsletter #41

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom continues our newsletter series on Vermont’s health care reform efforts. We dig deep through national and local media coverage, to bring honest reporting to our client businesses and newsletter recipients regarding Vermont’s push for a “single payer” health care system, and the problems inherent in such a system. We also report on the federal ObamaCare law and Vermont’s health benefit exchange. No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.

Grubergate: Shocking Revelations from VT. Single Payer Financing Guru

Jonathan Gruber, the Shumlin administration’s consultant hired to deliver a Vermont single payer financing plan in January 2015, has said this about American voters:

In this issue:

  • Jonathan Gruber: Now Ready to Mislead the Vermont Legislature
  • Why Does it Matter To Vermont?
  • Gruber Fallout Is National
  • The Gruber Report Will Not Meet the “Mullin Triggers”

Quotes of the Week:

“I was dumbstruck when I heard the comments that are surfacing from an economist named Jonathan Gruber, who was paid $400,000 to help shape the President’s health plan. First, he allowed as how the plan passed only because of a “lack of transparency” and – this is a direct quote – “the stupidity of the American people”.
-Bob Schieffer, CBS News

“The problem is not that he said it. The problem is that he thinks it. I’m serious. The core problem under this damn law is that it was put together by a bunch of elitists who don’t really fundamentally understand the American people”.
-Howard Dean, Former VT. Governor

“I would hope we would never spend one Vermont taxpayer dollar on someone that believes that we should mislead the voter. His belief that the ends justify the means is enough for me if I were governor to terminate his contract immediately. Transparency and open government are key to a well functioning democracy.”
-Senator Kevin Millin, R-Rutland

Jonathan Gruber: Now Ready to Mislead the Vermont Legislature

Americans just found out in recent weeks that they were deliberately deceived and misled by MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare. Videos of his speeches reveal a man with an elitist disdain for American voters, whom he calls “stupid”. Gruber played a central role in the preparation of analyses and the selling of ObamaCare. He now proudly admits that he was party to a series of deceptions and lies necessary to hoodwink both Washington lawmakers and the Congressional Budget Office into passing ObacaCare under false pretenses (see video at end of newsletter).

The same fate may be in store for Vermonters. Turns out that Jonathan Griber is the man Governor Shumlin contracted with to the tune of $450,000 to advise the Vermont legislature on how to finance Shumlin’s single-payer health care plan. Take a look at Gruber’s philosophy as seen in videotaped speeches on ObamaCare:

  • “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 to getting 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”.
  • “Politically you just literally cannot do….transparent financing, transparent spending. I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate (for people to have insurance) as taxes. If the CBO scores the bill as taxes, the bill dies. So it was written to do that”.
  • “It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of (the exemption of health care from being taxed)," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those policies”.
  • “It’s very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter”.
  • “We experimented with choice in public insurance – Medicare Part D. Typical senior has 50 PDPs (prescription drug plans to choose from). Seniors do a terrible job at choosing”.
  • Gruber ‘s response in the Vermont State House to a Vermonter concerned about the ramifications of single payer: “Was this written by my adolescent children by any chance?”.

Overall, Jonathan Gruber’s remarkable arrogance and disdain for the intellect of American voters and Vermont’s citizens is breathtaking. His remarks are delivered in a gloating fashion, with much laughter, as he admits his deception of the Congressional Budget Office and Washington lawmakers.

In Vermont, calls to fire Gruber are coming in from every direction, including several Vermont Republican senators and representatives. However, the Shumlin administration thinks it has somehow solved Gruber’s credibility problem by capping his contract payments. Instead of $450,000, Gruber was asked to complete the work for only the $160,000 already paid. The state will continue to pay Gruber’s assistants at the rate of $100/hr. Lawrence Miller, Shumlin’s single payer point person, estimates that Gruber will probably be paid at least $280,000. Not much of a penalty there.

Miller explains that Gruber “pushed back some” , but that the state was looking to address questions about Gruber’s credibility. “Doing the work without compensation helps to address that, helps to mitigate that” (the credibility gap), says Miller. No, Mr. Miller, it doesn’t. Making money has nothing to do with it; Gruber has made multiple millions already. That’s not what motivates him; his arrogance does.

Why Does It Matter to Vermonters?

Even if Gruber worked for free, he can’t change who he is and how he operates. By his own admission, Gruber purposely distorted information about ObamaCare to make it palatable to the Congressional Budget Office. Additionally, he purposely misabeled another important tax provision necessary to fund ObamaCare.

This is the very same work Gruber is being asked to do for the Shumlin administration and the Vermont legislature. The clear language of his contract refutes the recent backtracking by both Governor Shumlin and pro-single payer legislator Sen. Claire Ayer that “Hey, Gruber’s only doing numbers; he’s not going to advise us on policy”.

Gruber’s Vermont contract clearly states, “The Contractor shall assist the administration and other consultants in the development of the final policy recommendations that form the basis of a comprehensive report to the state legislature ”.

Even the most ardent legislative single payer advocate will have a tough time explaining to his or her constituency why a guy who would lie and mislead the federal Congressional Budget Office will now tell the truth to the Vermont legislature, and why they should accept any of his recommendations. Reread his philosophy above.

Gruber Fallout is National

Others for whom Gruber has done similar work are now questioning their decisions. The November 19, 2014 Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland Representative Andy Harris, a Johns Hopkins-trained physician, is a member of the House subcommittee with oversight of health spending. Harris is questioning a $3.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awarded to Gruber. Gruber has already received $1.5m to study how seniors choose Medicare Part D plans (“Seniors do a terrible job of choosing”). Harris said Gruber is on track to receive more than $2m. (Apparently Vermont’s pay freeze won’t hurt Mr. Gruber financially, although he did “push back” on it).

In a letter to the NIH, Dr. Harris wrote, “Recent developments related to Dr. Gruber raise questions about his objectivity and judgment, and thus the utility of his research. If NIH were to continue funding Dr. Gruber’s grant, would you recommend that Congress and others utilize Dr. Gruber’s study given his deporable views on the intelligence of Americans? If you do recommend using it, how would you justify that decision,, especially to seniors why rely on Medicare Part D?”.

Governor Shumlin and Vermont legislators will have to answer similar questions come January 2015.

The Wall Street Journal reports on November 20, 2014 that in Michigan, Republican state senator Tom McMillin sent a letter on November 19th to the State Department of Community health , seeking information on Mr. Gruber’s work, including how he was selected and paid. Michigan opted to go with the federal exchange rather than building a state-run exchange. (Mr. Gruber apparently works both sides of the street.) “He seems to have a proclivity for deception or fraud, so I’d like to dig into this”, said Mr. McMillin.

Perhaps the Vermont legislature should ask Reps. Harris and McMillin to visit in January and find out what they learned. Athough Gruber’s active participation in the obfuscation of facts that led to the passage of ObamaCare is not enough to dampen the ardor of Governor Shumlin and the Vermont legislature, this issue will not go away any time soon. The fallout will continue, more of Gruber’s contracts will be cancelled and more revelations will come to light.

Gruber’s Vermont Report Will Not Meet the “Mullin Triggers”

Remember the “Mullin Triggers” written into Act 48 to give Vermonters some comfort that a single payer system would not harm them? Many Vermonters were reassured that they were in safe hands beause no single payer system could be implemented without meeting these triggers. Not anymore. The triggers are not included in the scope of work outlined in Jonathan Gruber’s contract.

Mullin Triggers

  • All Vermonters must have insurance coverage that pays at least 80 percent of their medical costs.
  • Green Mountain Care, the single payer structure, will not have a “negative” aggregate impact on Vermont’s economy (Robin Lunge now says there will be “winners and losers”).
  • The financing for Green Mountain is sustainable.
  • Administrative costs will be reduced.
  • Cost containment will result in a reduction in the rate of growth of per-capita health care spending.
  • Health care professionals will be reimbursed at levels sufficient to allow Vermont to recruit and retain high-quality health care professionals.

Gruber Contract: “The Contractor and his subcontractor shall assist the state in analyzing the triggers set forth in Act 48 for future consideration by the Green Mountain Care Board:

  • When implemented, Green Mountain Care will not have a negative aggregate impact on Vermont’s economy.
  • The financing for Green Mountain Care is sustainable.

That’s it. What happened to the evaluation of the “80% medical costs” level plan? Or any medical plan? Any single payer analysis of the overall cost and whether it will be affordable and not have a negative impact on the economy, must, by definition, include an analysis of the underlying medical plan that will be the basis of single payer.

What happened to Act 48’s assurances about reduced admin costs? About cost containment resulting in reduced health care spending? And perhaps most importantly, about single payer’s ability to attract and retain high quality providers so our health care won’t suffer? Any response, Mr. Gruber? Governor Shumlin? Senator Ayer? Anyone?

ADD: 2 minute Gruber video roundtable

Earlier this month, a few dozen Vermonters gathered at the University of Vermont for a seminar billed as “Healthcare 101.” But first, they had to wait for a half hour in the fluorescently lit hallways of the George D. Aiken Center for a security guard to open the reserved classroom.

“This is what’s going to happen,” quipped one sardonic attendee, trying the door handle. “You’ll show up for health care and the doors will be locked.”

- Seven Days Newspaper; full article HERE.

  • Employers pay 40% of the healthcare costs – and were never consulted.
  • An appointed board will determine benefits, coverage, funding, deductibles, co-pays, premiums, technology, provider payments, etc.
  • Under this law, you will not be allowed to purchase insurance outside of the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange.