Remember when Nancy Pelosi declared that Obamacare was a jobs bill? "It's about jobs," Pelosi said in 2011, during a news conference to mark the first anniversary of passage of the Affordable Care Act. "Does it create jobs? Health insurance reform creates 4 million jobs."
Like many other promises about Obamacare, that hasn't worked out. But there is no doubt that Obamacare created a lot of work for at least one American -- MIT professor Jonathan Gruber. Gruber's frank admissions that he and others deceived the public about Obamacare have drawn a lot of attention in recent days. But the money that Gruber made from Obamacare raises yet another issue about his involvement in the project. Throughout 2009 and 2010, he energetically advocated a bill from which he stood to profit. And when it became law, the money rolled in.
In 2009, as Obamacare was moving its way through Senate committees, Gruber, who had achieved a measure of fame as the architect of Romneycare in Massachusetts, was a paid consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services. In March of that year, he received a contract for $95,000 to work on the project, and in June he received a second contract to continue that work; it was worth $297,600. Together, they comprise the "nearly $400,000" that critics have said Gruber received to work on Obamacare.
But after the bill became law, Gruber made a good deal more from it. The Affordable Care Act provided for states to set up exchanges to sell taxpayer-subsidized insurance coverage. For those states that chose to do so, exchanges would have to be built from the ground up. Studies would have to be done. Contracts would be let.
In 2010, the state of Wisconsin, under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, paid Gruber $400,000 to do a study of the impact of healthcare reform. By the time Gruber finished his report, Republican Scott Walker had been elected governor and wasn't much interested in using Gruber's study. "State officials did not invite Gruber to Wisconsin for the release of his study nor did they set up a conference call with him for reporters or even provide them with his contact information," the Madison, Wis., Capital Times reported. "That is unusual for an important report like this, which cost $400,000."
In the two years between March 2011 and March 2013, the state of Minnesota paid Gruber $329,000 to study how to make its exchange conform with Affordable Care Act requirements.
In 2012, the state of West Virginia signed a contract with Gruber to study its healthcare system. "The state will pay MIT professor Jonathan Gruber $121,500 to understand the states health insurance landscape and revisit key assumptions about state health care policy," the Charleston Daily Mail reported in September of that year. "Gruber is a policy rock star of sorts. He's advised more than a half dozen states on health care reform."
In November 2011, the state of Vermont hired a consulting firm that used Gruber to study the state exchange. Gruber was paid at least $91,875 for his work.
In 2012, the state of Michigan included Gruber in a multi-firm, $481,050 contract to study its exchange system. It's not clear how much of that went to Gruber himself.
The bottom line is that Obamacare has been very, very good to Jonathan Gruber. Now that he is in the news for other reasons, the public is also learning how much he profited from the bill he did so much to promote.
Of course others profited from Obamacare, too, and still are. Republican Mike Leavitt, a former governor of Utah and Mitt Romney adviser, has a consulting firm that has made millions off the exchanges. But Gruber's recent admissions might put him in a special category. He is, by his own account, a man who intentionally deceived the public in order to pass a measure from which he stood to profit handsomely.