Jonathan Gruber absolutely did not mean what he clearly said over and over and over again. That pretty much sums up the left's rationale for "Speak-O" Gruber stating again and again and again that states with federal health care exchanges would not be eligible for subsidies. Of course, Gruber made these quite clear statements before it became obvious that the vast majority of states would refuse to set up their own exchanges and the threat of withholding the subsidies fell flat.
Among the more amusing of those performing desperate damage control is Ezra Klein of General Electric Vox. Unfortunately for poor Ezra there is a large body of Obamacare documents besides the very language of the Obamacare law itself that contradict his assertion that it was intended all along that the federal exchange set up for the states would be eligible for subsidies. First let us allow Ezra to entertain us with his conniption fit over Speak-O:
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber's off-the-cuff comments about Obamacare's subsidies are the exception that proves the rule: they're getting so much attention precisely because they're the only example where anyone even appears to believe that Congress, without telling anyone, decided to turn Obamacare into an absolute disaster by withholding subsidies from states that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges.
Really, Ezra? How about the Office of the White House Press Secretary? Here is a fact sheet released by that office on February 28, 2011 (note the date):
Potential State-Based Innovations
The Affordable Care Act offers considerable flexibility to States without waivers. It also recognizes that new, creative effective ideas may emerge. While States have the freedom to develop their own proposals that may qualify for a State Innovation Waiver, some proposals that could qualify include:
...Immediately allowing large businesses interested in doing so to purchase health insurance through the new private marketplace, the State-based health insurance Exchange.
Nowhere in the fact sheet is a federal exchange mentioned. I said to note the date because in February of 2011 the Obama administration still believed most of the states would set up their own exchanges. The few that it was assumed would refuse due to "evil" Republican governors and/or legislators would get hammered politically for denying their residents the "wonderful" benefits of Obamacare. Of course, about a year later the administration got a shock when it turned out that few states would set up their own exchanges and had to change their messaging to ensure subsidies would also flow to states with federal exchanges even though it was not authorized in the Obamacare law.
And now we have a laughable dose of pathos from Mr. Klein. Cue up the violins, maestro:
This is a guy who cared so deeply about Obamacare's success that he literally published a comic book about it. His most important contribution to the Obamacare debate — technical simulations used by HHS that modeled how many people would get insurance under different scenarios — always assumed subsidies reached into every state. No journalist who interviewed Gruber (myself included) ever heard him mention that states that don't set up exchanges don't receive subsidies. He himself says he never believed that and the off-the-cuff comments were "speak-os".
As well as typos because here we have Speak-O Gruber performing a type-o in the December 24, 2009 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Ironically that was the same day that Harry Reid rammed the Obamacare bill through the Senate on Christmas Eve without allowing time for the senators to even read the 2000 plus page bill including the section that mentions only state-based exchanges as eligible for subsidies:
...The primary role of the government in this reform is as a financier of the tax credits that individuals will use to purchase health insurance from private companies through state-organized exchanges.
Again, no mention of a federal exchange. Ah, those were the days, my friend. We thought they would never end. When it was assumed that almost all states would rush to set up their own exchanges in exchange for subsidies. Who could have predicted back then in those days of liberal glory that most states would reject setting up their own exchanges?
I saved the best of Ezra's inadvertent comedy act for last which comes in the form of an hilarious petulant whine:
But Obamacare's opponents don't feel very good about making that case. It sounds too much like winning by cheating.
Waaah! No fair! You guys cheated!
Poor snuggums! Here, let me cradle you in my arms and sing you a gentle lullaby to calm you down. A lullaby about a certain president who cheated over and over again by completely disregarding the text of the Obamacare law to make it do what he wanted it to do without any reference to legality. And while calming down allow me to console you with a flood of GAO documents starting with one I posted yesterday which mentions state-based exchanges as eligible for subsidies, not a federal exchange. Oh, and you can also feast on a whole plethora of GAO documents with a similar theme posted by reader BulletPeople here, here, and here.
As to those, who as Nancy Pelosi suggested, voted for the bill in order to find out what is in it. Guess what? A federal exchange eligible for subsidies isn't in it. Only state-based exchanges. Sorry to spoil your day, Ezra.