O-Care architect provides fodder for court challenges

A major architect of ObamaCare is coming under fire for a video where he seems to support the notion the law was worded to push states to create their own health exchanges.

In a 2012 Youtube video that gained attention Friday, Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, is heard telling an audience the Federal government was refraining from helping states that have not built their own health exchanges to politically pressure them to do so.

“The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to [create their own exchanges],” he said in the video. “I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

Gruber was a major architect of Massachusetts RomneyCare and advised the Obama administration in 2009 in developing the Affordable Care Act.

In two recent high-profile cases plaintiffs have argued states that have not created their own health exchanges are ineligible for federal tax subsidies based on strict reading of the Affordable Care Act.

They argue the law was written to goad states into creating their own exchanges for fear of forfeiting tax subsidies for their residents. However, lawyers representing the Obama administration say that was not the case.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the plaintiffs while in King v. Burwell the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government.

If the plaintiffs win their cases, it could have a devastating effect on the millions of people in 36 states who depend on the government subsidies to help pay for their premiums.

While the cases continue to be fought in court, Gruber’s comments are fodder for opponents who argue the law was intentionally written so states that don’t have their own health exchanges are ineligible for subsidies.

Speaking to the New Republic Gruber said he has no recollection of making the comments and called it a mistake.

"I honestly don’t remember why I said that," he said. "I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake."