Fact-Checking Jonathan Gruber’s Latest Excuse
Economist Jonathan Gruber testified under oath before Congress this morning. When it came to his previously uncovered statements about subsidies and state exchanges–an issue now before the Supreme Court–Gruber offered the following excuse in his opening remarks [emphasis added]:
I would also like to clear up some misconceptions about my January 2012 remarks concerning the availability of tax credits in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges. The portion of these remarks that has received so much attention lately omits a critical component of the context in which I was speaking. The point I believe I was making was about the possibility that the federal government, for whatever reason, might not create a federal exchange. If that were to occur, and only in that context, then the only way that states could guarantee that their citizens would receive tax credits would be to set up their own exchange.
At this time, there was also substantial uncertainty about whether the federal backstop would be ready on time for 2014. I might have been thinking that if the federal backstop wasn’t ready by 2014, and states hadn’t set up their own exchange, there was a risk that citizens couldn’t get the tax credits right away.
The first problem with this excuse is that Gruber never said anything in his remarks about the federal backstop not being ready in time. In his January 10, 2012 speech at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Gruber chose to close his remarks by listing three ongoing threats to the law. In order, those threats were the Supreme Court, the 2012 election and the states failing to set up exchanges.
Because Gruber is complaining about context, it seemed important to make clear that no extenuating context was removed from his remarks. The following clip is an expanded version of those remarks. Cuts for length have been clearly indicated with a flash. As you’ll hear, he makes no mention of a delayed federal exchange. For the record, there is no mention of this before he offers his list of threats to the law and no mention in the Q&A that comes afterwards. The full audio is here for those who feel the need to check.