When I saw the news coverage of White House health care adviser Jonathan Gruber’s remarks, in which he essentially called Americans stupid, I thought of the old saying, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”
My next thought was, who’s being stupid here?
Gruber is an MIT health economist who worked on health care reform with both Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, and the Obama administration. In fact, he’s one of the reasons Obamacare looks so much like Romneycare, which Massachusetts lawmakers enacted in 2006.
During remarks he made at the Health Economists Conference at the University of Pennsylvania last year, Gruber claimed that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats had no choice but to keep the public in the dark, and even mislead folks, about certain aspects of the reform bill as it was being written.
“The lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber said. “And basically call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever but basically that was really, really critical to getting this thing passed … ”
The White House hired Gruber in 2009 to help figure out the economic consequences of various health care proposals. Considering how inept the Democrats have been from the beginning in explaining how the reform law would benefit all of us — and why it was structured the way it was — I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we found out Gruber had also been hired to provide PR advice on how to sell the law to the public.
The Democrats’ strategy seems to have been to say as little as possible both about why reform was needed and how the final law would protect us from insurance industry abuses. Which, fortunately, it does. The problem is that most Americans have forgotten that it does — if they ever knew about it in the first place.
The reason I decided to advocate for reform after I quit my industry job in 2008 was because of those abuses. When he was running for president, Obama often cited those abuses, but after he became president, he and those around him seemed to forget the importance of constantly reminding the public why reform was necessary.
I got so frustrated at what appeared to be the absence of a communications strategy that I even went so far as to call the White House in the summer of 2009 to offer some unsolicited ideas. I was thanked for my interest but essentially told, “don’t worry, we’ve got this figured out.”