MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has become the go-to economist for fans of the health care reform wending its way through congress. He regularly produces analyses showing how great reform is going to be for people buying insurance in the individual market, and has been a vocal advocate for the excise tax. His prominence made him a natural lead-in for Ron Brownstein's recent piece on the health care bill for Atlantic Politics:
When I reached Jonathan Gruber on Thursday, he was working his way, page by laborious page, through the mammoth health care bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had unveiled just a few hours earlier. Gruber is a leading health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is consulted by politicians in both parties. He was one of almost two dozen top economists who sent President Obama a letter earlier this month insisting that reform won't succeed unless it "bends the curve" in the long-term growth of health care costs. And, on that front, Gruber likes what he sees in the Reid proposal. Actually he likes it a lot.
"I'm sort of a known skeptic on this stuff," Gruber told me. "My summary is it's really hard to figure out how to bend the cost curve, but I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here....I can't think of anything I'd do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than they are doing."
He shows up in the work of the left-half of the health care commentariat so often that if I tried to round up representative cites, this piece would be published sometime next month, and you'd die of old age before you made your way through it.
But he probably wouldn't have been cited with quite the same authority--particularly by mainstream media--if he'd been more upfront about the fact that he's being paid almost $300,000 by the Obama Administration for "special studies and analysis" of the health care bills, as a blogger on Firedoglake revealed last night. Ben Smith has the rundown; apparently most of the health care beat reporters were as unaware of the relationship as I was.