- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

One of the architects of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act appeared on CNN on Wednesday and claimed the system is “working as designed” — it just needs to punish people more with higher taxes.

MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber infamously told an audience at the University of Pennsylvania in November 2014 that Democrats required “the stupidity of the American voter” for Obamacare to become law.

The White House’s announcement that premium increases up to 25 percent await Americans in 2017 brought Mr. Gruber into the limelight once again this week, where he told CNN’s Carol Costello there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the program.

“There’s no sense in which it needs to be fixed,” Mr. Gruber said. “The law is working as designed. However, it could work better.”

How can it work better? He answers “I think probably the most important thing experts would agree on is that we need a larger mandate penalty. We have individuals who are essentially free-riding on the system. They’re essentially waiting until they get sick and then getting health insurance.”

In other words, raise the fines — “taxes,” the Supreme Court called them in upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate — for not having an Obamacare-compliant health-insurance plan.

“The whole idea of this plan, the way it was pioneered in Massachusetts, was that the individual mandate penalty would bring those people into the system and have them participate. The penalty right now is probably too low and that’s something I think ideally we would fix,” the professor continued.

The conservative website Hot Air immediately took issue with Mr. Gruber’s analysis, along with his assertion that only the “very small fraction of people” buying insurance without subsidies will see prices skyrocket.

“Gruber is once again trying to intentionally mislead the public,” wrote Hot Air’s John Sexton on Wednesday. “It’s true that 85 percent of people buying insurance ‘on the exchanges’ are getting subsidies.

“However, as Gruber surely knows,” Mr. Sexton continues, “as many as half the people buying Obamacare plans are not buying them on the exchanges. And none of those people buying off-exchange plans are getting any subsides at all. So the idea that the 22 percent increases only apply a ‘small fraction’ is another attempt to deceive people about what is going on. Gruber knows the truth, he just doesn’t want viewers to know it.”

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that Obamacare’s benchmark plan will jump to $302 from $242 in 2016.

Five states will also provide coverage from a single insurance company in 2017.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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