WaPo's Kliff Lets Obamacare Architect Who Promised Cost Savings Totally Change His Tune

Here's a nice catch by Kyle Wingfield at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In late October, continuing a four-year pattern of making such claims, MIT's Jonathan Gruber, who along with Ezekiel "Zeke the Bleak" Emanuel is considered one of the two "architects" of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, pointed to a study which claimed that "the Affordable Care Act is working even better than expected, producing more coverage for much less money." But, as Wingfield noted in his Friday column, Gruber sang a totally different tune when quoted in the Washington Post on Thursday.


WaPo's Sarah Kliff failed to tag Gruber as an Obamacare architect, making it appear as if he's just some academic source she had decided to call for analysis.

Here is the bad news for the ACA, along with the Gruber-related paragraphs:

Study: Expanding Medicaid doesn’t reduce ER trips. It increases them.

SarahKliffWaPo2014wide

As the health-care law expands Medicaid to cover millions more Americans, a new Harvard University study finds that enrollment in public program significantly increases enrollees' use of emergency departments.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, showed a 40 percent increase in emergency department visits among those low-income adults in Oregon who gained Medicaid coverage in 2008 through a state lottery. This runs counter to some health-care law supporters' hope that Medicaid coverage would decrease this type of costly medical care, by making it easier for low income adults to see primary care providers.

"I would view it as part of a broader set of evidence that covering people with health insurance doesn't save money," says Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has also studied Oregon's Medicaid expansion but is not affiliated with this study. "That was sometimes a misleading motivator for the Affordable Care Act. The law isn't designed to save money. It's designed to improve health, and that's going to cost money."

... Gruber, the MIT economist, doesn't see the Harvard study as a compelling case against expanding Medicaid. There are still other benefits to insurance coverage, he says, that aren't about saving public funding. Separate research on the Oregon expansion, published last spring in the New England Journal of Medicine, found Medicaid enrollees to have significantly lower rates of depression and were more able to pay their medical bills.

"The overall notion is we're getting people more health care," Gruber says. "There are huge improvements in mental health. For those who want to argue that expanding Medicaid is a free lunch, this is bad. But that was never the right argument."

What?!?

Gruber's statement might have been acceptable if he had isolated his contentions to Medicaid while claiming that the Obamacare exchanges were money-savers. But he clearly went much further — Taken as a whole, "The law isn't designed to save money ... (it's) going to cost money."

Now he tells us.

Gee, whatever happened to "bending the cost curve" and $2,500 in savings for the average family?

Clueless Sarah Kliff never asked. How weak.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.