Den­tal plans, Gru­ber grilling set for House over­sight hear­ing

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Paul Demko

How did roughly 400,000 den­tal plans get in­cluded in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tally of health in­surance ex­change en­roll­ments?

That will be the main fo­cus of Tues­day’s hear­ing be­fore the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight & Gov­ern­ment Re­form. The em­bar­rass­ing gaffe re­duced the num­ber of ex­change en­rollees to less than 7 mil­lion just be­fore the start of Oba­macare’s sec­ond open-en­roll­ment pe­riod last month. That’s still above the re­vised es­ti­mate of 6 mil­lion en­roll­ments pre­dicted by the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice for 2014.

CMS Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mar­i­lyn Taven­ner un­doubt­edly will get a grilling from out­go­ing com­mit­tee chair­man Rep. Dar­rell Issa (R-Calif.) and his col­leagues about how the num­bers got gar­bled or ma­nip­u­lated.

But another sched­uled wit­ness, economist Jonathan Gru­ber of the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, is likely to in­spire far greater vit­riol. The aca­demic, who played a re­search role in de­sign­ing both Oba­macare and Rom­meyCare in Mas­sachusetts, has be­come the bete noire of re­form foes since a se­ries of videos sur­faced last month show­ing Gru­ber dis­cussing the health­care law in highly im­politic terms. In the most no­to­ri­ous clip, Gru­ber ar­gued that Democrats re­lied on the “stu­pid­ity of the Amer­i­can voter” to hide the costs of the leg­is­la­tion and win its pas­sage.

The vol­u­ble Gru­ber has largely gone silent since the con­tro­versy went vi­ral. Repub­li­cans un­doubt­edly will rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity make him squirm be­fore the cam­eras, while Democrats cringe. “This is just go­ing to be pure po­lit­i­cal theater for Fox News,” said John Gor­man, a Wash­ing­ton-based health­care con­sul­tant who served in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. “It’s just all Repub­li­can smoke and no fire.”


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