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Did Congress intend to deny subsidies to those purchasing health insurance on federal exchanges under Obamacare? The DC Circuit Court ruled that it did, based on the “plain language of the law,” in last week’s Halbig v Sebelius decision. Shikha Dalmia writes that the howls of protest from some ACA supporters are disingenuous at best, especially those from health economist Jonathan Gruber, who was a key player in designing the law. In 2012, his standard talking points included assertions about incentives for states built into the law. On at least three occasions, Gruber said that any state would be crazy not to set up its own exchange because that would deny its citizens the right to federal tax credits on premium costs. Obviously, Gruber did not anticipate the backlash against the ACA, as manifested (among other things) by 36 “crazy” states refusing to set up their own exchanges.  

Earlier this week, before proof of Gruber’s earlier statements had surfaced, he insisted to Chris Matthews that the “plain language” on this point in the ACA was something like a typo. Later, when the first Gruber video was revealed, he stated that his comment was mistaken, that it was a “speak-o.” Hahaha! Nice try.

Key legislators certainly knew that the state exchange requirement was built into the ACA, as this video of remarks from Max Baucus at a Senate Finance Committee hearing proves. Of course, many legislators might have missed this point, but the bill never went through a careful mark-up process, and of course some lawmakers, like Nancy Pelosi, felt that they had to “pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” Well, after all, should busy legislators be bothered to read a 1,400 page bill prior to a vote?