Jonathan Gruber AHIP and Single Payer

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber was at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week.

Gruber is one of the key architects of both Romneycare and Obamacare.

(“Make no doubt,” Gruber says. “Romneycare was the model for Obamacare.”)

And in dismissing a single payer solution for the United States, Gruber says that while single payer has “a lot of advantages,” it also has “key political disadvantages – most notably most Americans are pretty happy with their health care system and weren’t really in favor of ripping it up and starting over.”

This was a remarkable nutshell version of the political economy of single payer because it isn’t at all clear that “most Americans are pretty happy with their health care system” and it isn’t at all clear that most Americans “weren’t really in favor of ripping it up and starting over.”

In fact, as Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program points out – polls show that most Americans in fact favor of a single payer system.

Gruber in his initial remarks ignored the elephant in the room – the $850 billion a year health insurance industry, which would be effectively wiped out by a single payer system.

That’s the most notable “political disadvantage” to single payer, isn’t it, Jonathan?

When asked during the question period about this, Gruber says “you are right.”

“There are two fundamental barriers to single payer,” Gruber says. “The first, I mentioned, and the second is the $850 billion a year private health insurance industry which is not going to go quietly into the night.”

After leaving the press conference, an obvious question came to mind – is Gruber being paid by that same health insurance industry that he says won’t “go quietly into the night.”

Gruber has a history of getting paid by interested parties and not disclosing the payments.

In January 2010, Gruber got into trouble with the media for pushing Obamacare without disclosing that he had $400,000 in contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services.

After the press conference last week, we e-mailed Gruber asking him if he has any contracts or financial relationships with health care companies or the health insurance industry.

We waited a day or so, then a remarkable little e-mail from Gruber came into our inbox.

“Yes, I have been a consultant to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and to Carefirst – the blues plan in DC,” Gruber writes.

AHIP is the lobbying group for the $850 billion a year health insurance industry that would be wiped out by single payer.

As far as we can tell, Gruber has never disclosed this relationship with AHIP or with Carefirst.

So, we e-mailed back Gruber.

How much were you paid?

What were you paid to do?

When was it?

No answer yet from Gruber.

Gruber must come clean.

He’s being portrayed as the great liberal reformer.

When in fact, he’s working to protect the private health insurance industry.

And being paid by that same industry – without disclosing it to an unsuspecting public.

Or as Jon Walker, a senior policy analyst at Firedoglake, puts it:

“Gruber has an unfortunate habit of portraying himself as independent analyst when he’s heavily invested in one side of the debate and often paid by one side.”