The debate over Gruber’s words will extend beyond today’s hearing. The Supreme Court will hear a case called King v. Burwell this spring in which conservative lawyers argue the subsidies people get under the law should not apply to states that have not set up their own exchanges, citing text of the law, which says tax credits should go to Americans, “through an Exchange established by the state.” The Obama administration and Democrats who wrote the law, as Gruber argued, have said it was always their intention to offer tax credits to people who did not leave in states that set up their exchanges.
Only 14 states have so far set up exchanges, meaning that millions of people would not be eligible to get the subsidies under the law if the court rules against the Obama administration’s position. If the Court ruled against the administration’s view, it is likely states with Republican-led governors and legislatures would opt against setting up exchanges, as they have declined to expand Medicaid under the law, while more blue states would embrace the exchanges.
The remarks that Gruber made in a speech in January 2012 are now at the center of the conservatives’ case at the Supreme Court, which is expected to make a ruling next spring. “What’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits,” Gruber said back then, suggesting most states would eventually feel compelled to set up exchanges.
Conservatives seized on these comments because Gruber was a key figure in crafting the health care law. He was an architect of the Massachusetts health care reform signed into law by then-Gov. Mitt Romney that included a mandate everyone purchase insurance. The Obama administration borrowed heavily from the Massachusetts law in writing the Affordable Care Act, and Gruber worked as a paid consultant for the administration in 2009 and 2010, using an economic model he has created to predict how much various provisions in the law would cost and how many of the uninsured they would cover.
This isn’t notable because it is providing any groundbreaking news, quite the opposite. It’s notable because the post saying what until recently was something that the MSM and the Obama administration had hoped to keep contained as merely internal outrage among conservative activists and pundits. In the not too distant past, the mainstream, left-leaning media could simply ignore a story like this and it would often go away. That is obviously no longer the case.
President Obama and his cheerleaders in the press seem to be unaware of the rapidly shifting media landscape, however, and keep plowing ahead as if it were 1997. That is why the president thought he could merely tell everyone that Gruber didn’t play a big part in the crafting of Obamacare and it would be enough to throw people off the trail.
The media has, for the most part, spent a month ignoring this and hoping for a little retro magic. That the most partisan hacks among the Big Three networks are now stating the obvious means it is probably an even bigger problem than they’re admitting and Team Lightbringer is really sweating this one.