A chief architect of the Affordable Care Act said in 2012 in a talk at the University of Rhode Island that the then-Democratic Congress exploited American voters' “lack of economic understanding” when it passed the massive 2010 healthcare law.
Jonathan Gruber’s comment is the latest in a string of old but controversial remarks that have recently gained public attention.
“In America, we have a pernicious feature of our tax code, which says that if MIT pays me in wages, I get taxed,” Gruber, an MIT health economist, said during his address. “But if your employer pays you in health insurance, you do not.”
Gruber explained that most Americans become defensive and object when policymakers try to change this, because they don't want their health insurance to be taxed. But it wasn’t until Secretary of State John Kerry, another Massachusetts "hero,” came along that he realized how to sell such a plan successfully.
“John Kerry said, ‘No, no. We’re not going to tax your health insurance. We’re going to tax those evil insurance companies. We’re going to impose a tax that if they sell insurance that’s too expensive, we’re going to tax them,’” Gruber said. “And, conveniently, the tax rate will happen to be the marginal tax rate under the income tax code.”
“So, basically, it’s the same thing: We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing,” he added. “It’s a very clever, you know, basically exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
Elsewhere in the address, Gruber suggested that American voters are callous by nature and would have been much more strongly opposed to Obamacare if the reduction of healthcare costs had not been framed as its chief aim.
“The dirty secret is the American voter doesn’t actually care about the uninsured," Gruber said. "The dirty secret is: You can’t really get a law passed by saying, ‘We’re helping the uninsured.’ You have to make it about cost control to get it passed. Because that’s what the American public cares about. So they had to make this law not just about the uninsured, but about cost control. That was a challenge,” he added.
Two other videos have recently emerged from 2013, in which Gruber can be seen remarking on the “stupidity” of American voters.