CNN has unearthed a new Jonathan Gruber video speaking undiplomatically about the White House's approach to passage of the health care law in 2010. In this video, Gruber says bluntly what many observers noticed at the time: President Obama focused on how the Affordable Care Act would bring down the cost of health care, not on the moral imperative of extending health insurance to millions of low- and moderate-income Americans.
"Barack Obama's not a stupid man, okay? He knew when he was running for president that quite frankly the American public doesn't actually care that much about the uninsured. ... What the American public cares about is costs. And that's why even though the bill that they made is 90 percent health insurance coverage and 10 percent about cost control, all you ever hear people talk about is cost control. How it's going to lower the cost of health care, that's all they talk about."
Several Gruber videos have emerged recently showing the MIT professor discussing the Affordable Care Act in impolitic ways, causing a major cause for controversy among Republicans. My colleague Jason Millman has written about one reason the videos have generated such a stir: He's willing to say only only what other people are thinking about Obamacare.
In the video, Gruber says the Obama administration was trying a host of measures to reduce costs, but wasn't certain that any would work. The most effective way, he added, would be cutting spending directly, but:
[T]he problem is you're going to then eat into what the rich guys are getting that they're liking. And that doesn't go so well. That's going to be pretty hard politically. That's why no one has a politically feasible way right now to bend the cost curve, it just doesn't exist
According to the latest data, Obamacare has extended coverage to 7.1 million people who have received insurance through exchanges. And 8.7 million newly-eligible and previously-eligible people have signed up for Medicaid coverage since last fall.
White House officials also claim that the law is reducing the growth in health care costs, but many economists say that is largely the result of the slow economy. As Jason has reported, actuaries for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project that health spending will grow on average 5.7 percent each year through 2023, which is lower than the growth rate before the ACA.
Meanwhile, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that on average premiums on mid-level ACA health insurance plans would decrease by .8 percent next year. (This measured the so-called "benchmark" plan, or the second lowest cost silver plan.) So average premiums are going down, slightly. At the same time, in many cities, insurers are changing rates, so individual customers may be paying more if they want to stay on the same plan.