Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber joined CNN on Wednesday morning to say the best way to fix the failing health-care law he engineered would be to increase the “penalty.”
A recent study found that Obamacare insurance plans will cost many Americans about 22 percent more next year. For some — like those in Phoenix, Arizona — the cost is much worse, about a 145 percent increase. Since the news broke earlier this week, the Obama administration has frantically been trying to spin the news.
Gruber’s interview on CNN this morning was truly painful — in one breath he says it’s working great, and then in the next calls for a “penalty” increase to punish all those deadbeat Americans who are “free-riding the system.”
“There’s no sense in which this has to be ‘fixed,’ the law’s working as designed,” Gruber said. “However, it could work better, and I think probably the most important thing experts would agree on is that we need a larger mandate penalty.”
He went on to deride individuals who chose to go without insurance and instead pay the “penalty,” because it’s less expensive than purchasing an expensive, sub-par plan from the exchanges. When these individuals do need health insurance, they can quickly buy up a plan after they’re already sick, because Obamacare bans insurance companies from denying customers who have pre-existing conditions.
“We have individuals who are essentially free-riding on the system,” he said. “They’re essentially waiting until they get sick and then getting health insurance. . . The penalty right now is probably too low, and that’s something that ideally we would fix.”
As The Federalist’s David Harsanyi pointed out, Gruber’s choice to call it a “penalty” rather than a “tax” is interesting.
When the Supreme Court ruled President Obama’s health-care law constitutional, they did so by claiming that the amount someone is compelled to pay each year for not having insurance was a tax, not a penalty. Since Congress has the constitutional authority to levy taxes, it’s okay if they force people to pay higher taxes for not buying insurance, the court ruled.
Justice John Roberts explained it thusly in his decision:
The mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.
So why is Gruber now calling it a “penalty?” Is it perhaps because it really is a penalty and the American people are being compelled to buy a sub-par product at a cost that will soon skyrocket? Or is it a tax, but Gruber doesn’t want to say that because supporting higher taxes is a poll-tested way to lose political arguments?