Vermont officials said Wednesday they would stop paying Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber for consulting on the state health care system after videos surfaced recently of him suggesting that the ”stupidity of the American voter” helped pass the Affordable Care Act.
Gruber, who helped the White House draft what has become known as Obamacare, had been paid $160,000 of a $400,000 Vermont contract to run economic models for a proposed health insurance system, the Burlington Free Press reported on Wednesday. Lawrence Miller, the chief of health care reform in Vermont, said in a statement that he expects Gruber to finish his work for the state, but would stop paying for his work. Miller added that the state would continue to issue paychecks to the graduate students working with Gruber.
Gruber declined to comment, the Free Press reported.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) on Tuesday sought to distance himself from Gruber's videotaped remarks, but said the state needed the economist’s expertise.
"I am caught between a rock and a hard place," Shumlin told told the Free Press. Three Republican state lawmakers sent a letter to Shumlin on Monday demanding that he terminate Gruber's state contract.
According to The Washington Post, Gruber was hired by at least eight states to help implement the Affordable Care Act.
Videos unearthed recently of Gruber have stirred trouble for the economist and the health care law. Gruber, who was consulted by the White House on the bill in 2009, said during an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 that the inability of the American voter to understand the content of the Affordable Care Act had helped the bill pass. Video of the remarks have been picked up by several news outlets recently, and the Obama administration has tried to distance itself from the economist.
"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the 'stupidity of the American voter' or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass," Gruber said in the video.
In another video, Gruber says subsidies to help low-income Americans buy insurance are reserved for state-established exchanges. That video is being used in the legal challenge to Obamacare now making its way to the Supreme Court.