Who's really stupid? What Jonathan Gruber got wrong about ObamaCare

Academics often believe they are the smartest people around, and they like to tell others how best to live their lives. Add the government’s power to control people’s lives and you have a dangerous combination.

Americans got a taste of this elitism when MIT’s Jonathan Gruber mocked "the stupidity of the American voter."

But American voters aren’t the only ones who make mistakes. Time after time, the “architect" of ObamaCare underestimated costs and overestimated how many people would be covered. Like so many Ivory Tower academics, Gruber doesn’t understand how the real world operates.


Could it be that those “stupid” American voters collectively understood things better than Gruber?

Gruber testified before the U.S. Senate that ObamaCare would guarantee “[s]izable premium savings for [the] young . . . . Even larger premium savings for older individuals. . . . Also large premium savings for a family.” He told the Washington Post, “What we know for sure the bill will do is that it will lower the cost of buying non-group health insurance.

Sizable premium savings for the young? When people started signing up last year under the new rules, the average state saw the premiums for 27-year-olds soar by 62.5 percent.

The explosion in their insurance premiums was pretty simple to explain:Young people subsidize older people buying insurance. That is the very reason the Obama administration has pushed so hard for young people to sign up.It needed money from young, healthy people to reduce the premiums for older, sicker people.

Gruber’s inaccurate predictions must have come as quite a shock for older individuals. Look at premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for women aged 55 to 64. According to a University of Pennsylvania study, their premiums rose by a staggering 50 percent when the federal exchanges started in 2014.

Gruber made a lot of money charging state governments to forecast ObamaCare’s impact in their states.But he told those state governments to expect big increases in premiums, the opposite of what he had promised Americans and the Senate.

For Wisconsin and Minnesota, Gruber predicted average premium increases for the individual market of 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively, by 2016 — annual increases that will likely be several times greater than the inflation rate.

For Colorado, he predicted a 19 percent increase.

He further warned the states that these predictions of premium increases would be underestimates. He told the state of Colorado: “We cannot incorporate the effects of the ban on pre-existing conditions,” which will inevitably drive up insurers’ costs.

Another mistake Gruber made was promising only a “rather modest erosion of employer-sponsored insurance.” But the drop has already been much larger. Just 25 percent of companies that had previously offered part-time employees health insurance continued to do so in 2013.  Even worse, employers are likely to continue to drop coverage for their employees. For instance, Wal-Mart recently announced that starting Jan. 1, it will stop offering health insurance to those working less than 30 hours per week.  Many other major companies, including Target and Home Depot, have recently made similar announcements.

The consequences of ObamaCare have been substantial. Instead of the dramatically lowered premiums that were promised, premiums and out-of-pocket payments have both increased

The costs to the government have also been much larger than promised. People have lost the doctors they’d been seeing for years, and they haven't been able to keep their insurance plans. Undoubtedly, with the advent of regulatory panels limiting people’s choices and costly government oversight the quality of care is also falling.

With such a mess, it would be nice if Gruber realized that he isn't as smart as he thinks he is. But academics are rarely known for being humble.