Rich Weinstein is the single person considered most responsible for exposing one of the biggest blows to the Affordable Care Act’s image: a series of videos in which a key Obamacare architect discusses the “stupidity of the American people” and how that helped get the bill passed.
Now, Weinstein is speaking on camera for the first time in an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal.
An investment adviser from Philadelphia, Weinstein says he began researching the Affordable Care Act when his own health insurance was canceled in late 2013.
“When they said, ‘If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,’ I believed that just like everybody else,” says Weinstein.
Using nothing more complicated than Google, Weinstein unearthed a treasure trove of publicly available information, including embarrassing videos starring Jonathan Gruber.
Gruber is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist described as a key architect of Obamacare. He reportedly received $400,000 in federal consulting contracts to provide expertise on the Affordable Care Act. He previously helped design the Massachusetts health care law that is considered a model for Obamacare.
The ‘Stupidity’ Videos
In several videos unearthed by Weinstein, Gruber refers to voters as “stupid.”
“And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but, basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass,” Gruber says of the Affordable Care Act in an academic lecture on Oct. 4, 2013.
In another, Gruber discusses how a trick in wording hides a large tax that is passed onto consumers.
“Because the American voter is too stupid to understand the difference,” Gruber says, prompting laughter from the audience.
Weinstein says when he first heard the comments on the video he’d found, “I just thought he was trying to put one over on us. Not just on me or you, but on everybody.”
Weinstein also discovered videos in which Gruber refers to the intentional lack of transparency in the Affordable Care Act.
“I wish … we could make it all transparent but I’d rather have this law than not,” Gruber says in one excerpt.
In another, he states, “If you had a law in which it said healthy people are gonna pay in, you made [it] explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”
Weinstein spent countless hours scouring the Internet. As he found more videos and information, he became disenchanted with the news media.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” he says. “The media just has not had any, very little intellectual curiosity … all these videos were out there in plain sight.”
The ‘Noblis’ Video
Weinstein considers what he calls the “Noblis video” to be the most important of the bunch. It shows Gruber speaking at a technical conference sponsored by a company called Noblis on Jan. 18, 2012.
The find is considered so significant, it’s entered as evidence in the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act that justices will hear Wednesday.
In that case, King v. Burwell, the administration argues the Affordable Care Act confers federal assistance—subsidies—to qualified consumers in all 50 states.
Opponents, a majority of the states, argue the law only applies to the 16 states that set up their own health care exchanges to sell insurance under Obamacare.
Gruber has been quoted as calling the challenger’s theory “nutty.” Yet, in the Noblis video, recorded nine months before HealthCare.gov went live, he agrees with the opposing side. He clearly states that tax subsidies were only meant for states that established exchanges.
“What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill,” says Gruber. “So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens ‘you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country.’”
If the Supreme Court believes what Gruber said in the video is correct, Weinstein says it’s “obviously a big wrench” in Obamacare. It’s estimated that more than 5 million people could lose their subsidies.
“Millions of people would lose their health insurance subsidies and therefore would no longer be able to afford health insurance,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
‘Lack of Economic Understanding’
In still more videos excerpts, Gruber talks about ways to mask a health care-related tax on the public by “mislabeling it” as a tax on insurance companies.
“…Calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people, when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans,” says Gruber.
Gruber also explains, “We tax the insurance companies, they pass it on [in the form of] higher prices, that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing. It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
After Weinstein helped expose the videos, Gruber apologized for his embarrassing remarks. He called them “inexcusably arrogant” and says he was speaking “off the cuff.”
President Obama has said he does not agree with Gruber’s assessment of the American public’s intellect, and that the former adviser’s views do not reflect “the process.” The White House did not respond to a request for further comment for this story.
The ‘Cadillac Tax’
Ask Weinstein what is the biggest shoe yet to drop regarding the Affordable Care Act and he immediately points to the so-called “Cadillac tax.”
“That Cadillac tax—it’s a whopper,” says Weinstein. “That’s a real problem.”
The Cadillac tax is a huge tax that will be levied on high-end insurance plans—the “Cadillacs” of health insurance.
Starting in 2018, Obamacare imposes the 40 percent tax on individual health plans costing more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family. The idea is to press employers to offer less generous plans.
Many people, including Weinstein, believe it will prompt employers to cut out health insurance altogether, forcing some of the 158 million people who are currently insured through work onto the Obamacare exchanges for plans they don’t like as much, with limited choices and higher deductibles.
“The employers are gonna get frustrated, not offer employer-sponsored insurance anymore,” predicts Weinstein. “I don’t think those people are expecting what’s going to hit them.”
Weinstein says thanks to Obamacare, his insurance premiums have doubled. Today, he has connected with three other “citizen journalists” who say they’re committed to doing the job that the news media is not doing well: critically investigating the Affordable Care Act.
“One person can make a difference,” says Weinstein. “I’m nobody special. I had a problem, I got onto Google … but anybody can make a difference and if you don’t like what’s going on, you can make a difference.”
Last week, Gruber was one of four members removed from the Massachusetts’ Health Connector Board, which oversees the state’s health care law.
In asking for the resignations, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s establishing a new leadership team.