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Adviser’s past remarks could give Obamacare a headache


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Liberals and Democrats have been near-unanimous in ridiculing the central claim of a lawsuit that could cripple the Affordable Care Act in much of the country, dismissing it as an opportunistic attempt to bring down the law over a drafting error.


The challengers backing the lawsuit say that the law doesn’t allow the government to offer subsidies to those shopping for health insurance in federally run state marketplaces – also known as exchanges – which would make health insurance prohibitively expensive for millions of Americans.


The challengers got a boost Thursday evening when a video surfaced showing Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber, an adviser to the Obama administration during the drafting of the health care law, saying in 2012 that subsidies weren’t available on federal exchanges.


Two federal courts came to opposite conclusions this week on whether the health care law authorized a rule from the Internal Revenue Service that allowed subsidies to be available in the federally run exchanges. The law states that the subsidies are available in “an exchange established by the state,” a formulation its challengers say bars subsidies in federal exchanges. The law’s supporters say, viewed in context, the federally run state exchanges should include subsidies. Since the law’s passage, at least 36 states, mostly run by Republicans, have refused to set up state exchanges.


One theory put forth by the challengers is that the feds wanted to pressure states to set up exchanges by denying them subsidies if they didn’t – an interpretation that would conveniently allow opponents of the law to undermine it.


Gruber’s remarks, seen in a video discovered by a commenter on the conservative legal blog Volokh Conspiracy named Rich Weinstein, were publicized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative group backing the lawsuits. Here’s an excerpt, which begins about 30 minutes in.




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