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Obamacare Adviser Gets Set To Go In Front Of Congressional Firing Squad


An MIT economist who consulted on the crafting of the Affordable Care Act is testifying on Capitol Hill today. Lawmakers will be grilling him over some embarrassing comments that were caught on video tape. Jonathan Gruber told an academic health care conference last year that supporters of Obamacare were only able to pass the law by concealing what was in it. Critics have seized on Gruber's comments as another opportunity to challenge the law. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Jonathan Gruber is an expert on the economics of health care. At a conference at the University of Pennsylvania last year, he outlined one of the basic trade-offs in Obamacare - healthy people pay into the system while sick people benefit. Supporters argue that's the nature of insurance, and they note everyone runs the risk of getting sick at some point. But Gruber says Obamacare never would have become law had the trade-off been spelled out clearly.


JONATHAN GRUBER: Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. You know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.

HORSLEY: When a video of those comments began burning up the Internet last month with the hash tag #grubergate, Republicans in Congress pounce. After all the MIT economist was a paid consultant for the drafters of Obamacare, as well as Mitt Romney's health care law in Massachusetts. President Obama denies that Americans were duped about the way the law works. He notes Obamacare was the product of more than a year of congressional debate.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is no reflection on the actual process that was run.

HORSLEY: Gruber may also be grilled today over comments he made in 2012, that people living in states that did not set up their own insurance markets are not eligible for federal subsidies. Critics are now making that same argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. If they prevail, it could be far more damaging to Obamacare than any embarrassing videotape. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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