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North Carolina fires Gruber after Obamacare remarks

In this May 12, 2009 file photo, Jonathan Gruber, professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, participates in a Capitol Hill hearing on the overhaul of the heath-care system in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

North Carolina’s state auditor on Thursday terminated a contract with Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economics professor and health-care expert whose comments on the Affordable Care Act have generated fury among conservatives.

Auditor Beth Wood (D) had hired Gruber to analyze the state’s Community Care of North Carolina program, which provides managed care to the poor and disabled. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and state lawmakers involved in reforming the state’s Medicaid system were studying whether to include the Community Care program in the reformed system.

Wood’s office, in consultation with the Republican-led legislature, hired Gruber last November. He spent the year finding and analyzing data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The month before he was hired, Gruber had appeared at a health-care policy conference in Pennsylvania, where he credited “the stupidity of the American voter” with helping pass the Affordable Care Act. Unnoticed until this month, the comments — and others in which Gruber glibly insults voters and taxpayers — exploded on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, Fox News and conservative Web sites.

Earlier this week, Wood’s office decided they had to fire Gruber because it couldn’t “eliminate [the] appearance of an independence impairment,” according to a timeline released by the Auditor’s office. Wood met with Republican leaders of the General Assembly on Tuesday to inform them of the decision, then called Gruber on Wednesday.

“Gruber’s comment that it was all right to mislead people to get to a desired outcome that he favored led our auditors to determine he had at least the appearance of an independence impairment,” Bill Holmes, a spokesman for the Auditor’s office, told WRAL.

Gruber will be paid a total of about $100,000 for his work with the North Carolina office, officials said.

The North Carolina contract is the second Gruber has lost since his comments came to light. On Wednesday, Vermont officials said they will no longer pay Gruber for consulting work on a state public health-care financing plan. Gruber was working under a $400,000 contract to run economic models on a single-payer health-care system.

Lawrence Miller, Vermont’s top health-care official, told the Burlington Free Press he expects Gruber to complete his work, but without pay. So far, Gruber has been paid $160,000 through the Vermont contract. The graduate students working as Gruber’s research assistants will still be paid for their time.