As of Friday, the total number of videos circulating of Gruber boasting to audiences about the circumstances under which Obamacare had passed was six. A number of the recently surfaced videos date from 2010 and 2011, while the most recent videos date back to fall of 2013 and there may be even more damning video to come.
In a 2011 conversation about the Affordable Care Act, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the law more commonly known as Obamacare, talked about how the bill would get rid of all tax credits for employer-based health insurance through "mislabeling" what the tax is and who it would hit.
The issue at hand in this sixth video is known as the "Cadillac tax," which was represented as a tax on employers' expensive health insurance plans. While employers do not currently have to pay taxes on health insurance plans they provide employees, starting in 2018, companies that provide health insurance that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family will have to pay a 40 percent tax.
"Economists have called for 40 years to get rid of the regressive, inefficient and expensive tax subsidy provided for employer provider health insurance," Gruber said at the Pioneer Institute for public policy research in Boston. The subsidy is "terrible policy," Gruber said.
"It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, 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."
(The White House press secretary said at a press briefing in 2010: "I would disagree with your notion that it is a tax on an individual since the proposal is written as a tax on an insurance company that offers a plan.")
The second way was have the tax kick in "late, starting in 2018. But by starting it late, we were able to tie the cap for Cadillac Tax to CPI, not medical inflation," Gruber said. CPI is the consumer price index, which is lower than medical inflation.
Gruber explains that by drafting the bill this way, they were able to pass something that would initially only impact some employer plans though it would eventually hit almost every employer plan. And by that time, those who object to the tax will be obligated to figure out how to come up with the money that repealing the tax will take from the treasury, or risk significantly adding to the national debt.
"What that means is the tax that starts out hitting only 8% of the insurance plans essentially amounts over the next 20 years essentially getting rid of the exclusion for employer sponsored plans," Gruber said. "This was the only political way we were ever going to take on one of the worst public policies in America."
Unions and employers who object in 2018, he noted, "at that point if they want to get rid of it they're going to have to fill a trillion dollar hole in the deficit...It's on the books now."
Speeches with much more blunt language on Gruber's part had surfaced on conservative blogs and talk radio earlier this week, although the story didn't begin gaining coverage until later on in the week when more videos began surfacing.
The comments were made during the panel sessions at the Annual Health Economics Conference last year.
"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes," he said during a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania in October, 2013. "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. 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.”
Democrats who were pivotal in passing Obamacare were quick to distance themselves from Gruber. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who cited Gruber's work during the push to pass Obamacare, denied knowing who he was and attempted to downplay his role in crafting the law during a press conference on Friday.
Gruber himself boasted of a 2009 meeting with the President Obama about the healthcare law in a 2012 interview- the White House visitor's log confirms Gruber's visit.
While some pundits have been wondering why these videos didn't surface before the election, their release may have been timed to coincide with something else altogether. The revelations come before the issue of Obamacare is once again before the Supreme Court. This time, the law is being challenged based on subsidies for the 14 states that didn't set up state-run Obamacare exchanges and the Administration's case could very well be undercut by Gruber's statements.