Why were the services of MIT professor and Youtube star Jonathan Gruber worth $400,000 to the Obama administration?

Gruber was paid that much in taxpayer’s money by the administration, according to an item in the Weekly Standard by health care expert Jeffrey Anderson, because Gruber had developed a tool that would lead to a favorable scoring of the Affordable Care Act by the Congressional Budget Office. A favorable scoring from the CBO was important in trying to sell the legislation to a skeptical public and corralling any wavering Democrats.

As Anderson reports, the ploy worked—the CBO appears to have used Gruber model to score the Affordable Care Act, producing a rosy picture of its effects:

Two well-placed sources on Capitol Hill say that the Congressional Budget Office effectively used Jonathan Gruber’s model to score Obamacare.  That model favors government mandates over market competition and claims that essentially the only way to achieve a large reduction in the number of uninsured Americans is to impose an Obamacare-like individual mandate. 

Moreover, because the model that the CBO used in scoring Obamacare is the same one it uses today, any alternative to Obamacare that doesn’t include an individual mandate — which is to say, any conservative alternative — would be scored by the CBO as falling well short, in terms of coverage numbers, of Gruber’s preferred legislation. 

While the CBO’s model isn’t exactly the same as Gruber’s, one well-placed congressional source says that the two models are “eerily similar.”  That source adds that, not only was Gruber one of the CBO’s academic advisors at the time that Obamacare was scored — a claim echoed by the Huffington Post — but two of Gruber’s graduate student protégés worked on the scoring. 

But the CBO scoring had glaring errors:

For the record, before Obamacare passed, the CBO predicted that the president’s signature legislation would have led to 19 million more people having health insurance by 2014 (see Table 4).  In reality, Obamacare has maybe hit half that number — and many if not most of Obamacare’s newly insured have simply been dumped into Medicaid.

Anderson’s article also details the administration’s duplicity in quoting Gruber as an objective professor—conveniently failing to note that he was on the payroll. My favorite is Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House Office on Health Care Reform. It was DeParle’s office that gave Professor Gruber the $400,000.

Nevertheless Ms. DeParle misleadingly identified Gruber in a White blog post simply as an “MIT Economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process” and who had “issued a compelling new report” on ObamaCare. Gruber, by the way, has become a rich man because of ObamaCare; the $400,000 he received from the Obama administration was just the beginning of Professor Gruber's ObamaCare riches.

Gruber’s revelations about how the public was hoodwinked are a blow at whatever legitimacy ObamaCare retained. Anderson concludes:

Perhaps it’s time to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a winning conservative alternative that would lower costs, secure liberty, and make it possible for any American who wants to buy health insurance to be able to do so.  And perhaps it’s time to make sure that Jonathan Gruber’s influence over the CBO’s scoring of Obamacare, and of Obamacare alternatives, doesn’t extend into the next Congress.