Jonathan Gruber, a key intellectual architect of President Obama’s overhaul of the American health care system, is a little frustrated.
Gruber, whose ideas also made up the landmark overhaul of health care in Massachusetts that was overseen by then-governor Mitt Romney, thinks that the Obama health care package would still be better than nothing if the mandate were removed, but said that it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. He explained that the requirement to buy insurance puts more healthy people into the overall pool, and that if companies are not allowed to screen for pre-existing conditions, which is one of the more popular aspects of the bill, consumers would simply buy health care once they’re sick, which would in turn drive up premiums.
Gruber said Republicans were actually less opposed to the mandate, which is going to be under scrutiny by the court, than they were to other provisions of the health care bill, given that the mandate was an essentially conservative idea that had currency with conservative intellectuals in the early 1990s. I asked about the difference between this plan and the kind that was espoused by former House speaker Newt Gingrich back then (and, briefly, in May of this year).
“Zero difference,” he said. “This is, to my mind, the most blatantly obvious case of politics trumping policy I’ve ever seen in my life. Because this is an idea, that four or five years ago, Republicans were touting. A guy from the Heritage Foundation spoke at the bill signing in Massachusetts about how good this bill was.”
He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney’s attempt to distinguish between Obama’s bill and his own is disingenuous.
“The problem is there is no way to say that,” Gruber said. “Because they’re the same fucking bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”