POLITICS
02/25/2015 09:19 pm ET Updated Feb 25, 2015

Jonathan Gruber Ousted From Massachusetts Health Panel

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Jonathan Gruber, the influential and controversial MIT health economist, is among four people that the Massachusetts governor asked to step down from a powerful state commission.

The news, first reported Wednesday by Jon Keller of WBZ-TV, lit up social media. But it’s not clear whether the resignations have much to do with Gruber specifically -- or whether they are part of a routine political transition, now that a Republican governor has taken over from a Democratic one.

Gruber, an outside adviser to the Obama administration during the enactment of Obamacare, famously talked about the “stupidity of the American voter” during a series of videotaped academic lectures. When those lectures came to light last summer, Gruber drew widespread criticism, particularly from conservatives. More recently, Gruber’s billing for consulting services in Vermont has come under scrutiny, following an auditor's report questioning the hours Gruber said that he and a research assistant had worked.

But Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to remove four people from the Massachusetts Connector Board, which oversees the state's universal health insurance program, is consistent with broader, unrelated policy priorities the governor has laid out in the last few weeks. Baker has been critical of the connector, blaming it for state budget problems. Earlier this month, he reorganized it. As Jessica Bartlett of the Boston Business Journal has reported, the change gives Baker, a former health care executive, more power over the board and its programs.

In a letter thanking the four outgoing board members for their service, Baker said, “As with all incoming administrations, I am establishing a new leadership team and I have instructed those individuals to take a fresh look at the Connector and to implement ideas to improve the operation of that important state entity.”

“The gov's chief of staff was clear,” Gruber told the Boston Business Journal, via email. “He wants to have his own set of people on the board. He has four slots to appoint and he's eager to take the connector in whatever direction he wants and he wants to do it with his own people. I served 9 wonderful years on the board and the governor has a right to appoint his own people to serve his vision."

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