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Colorado Gruber-Gate Update: Open Records Request Pending

On Monday, Watchdog Wire reported that a left-leaning health policy think tank here in Colorado had contracted with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber to produce a report in support of a state health insurance exchange.

While we wait for Connect for Health Colorado (C4HC), the state’s exchange, to respond to our Colorado Open Records (CORA) request, we would like to fill you in on two minor developments.

First, the Washington Post reported that the state of Colorado had indeed paid Gruber for some Obamacare-related consulting.  The source for their claim was a draft proposal for a grant request, prepared by C4HC.  The grant was to come under a section of federal assistance specifically reserved for Affordable Care Act exchanges.  This sentence lends support to the Post’s assertion:

In 2011, the State of Colorado worked with Jonathan Gruber to provide research and evaluation of the potential impact of opening a state-based Exchange. One outcome of that research was the beginning of a dialogue and additional collection of statewide enrollment projections. Since that time, COHBE has worked with the Colorado Health Institute and Corona Research to provide additional, statistical information and insights regarding the potential size of the Colorado Exchange marketplace.

One of our CORA requests asks for clarification of what it meant to “work with Jonathan Gruber.”  The description does seem to fit the report that he produced for CHI.  However, as noted in the previous article, Gruber’s work came after the governor had already signed the insurance exchange into law.  Nevertheless, it does appear that Gruber’s work formed the basis for the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange (COHBE), as the exchange was then known, to contract for additional research.  We are seeking clarification as to the nature of that work.

Second, we noted that Gruber’s work on the size and composition of Colorado’s uninsured population had been cited in a study of the effects of expanding the state’s Medicaid rolls, (p. 10) as contemplated by the ACA.  We were unsure at the time as to whether or not that report made it into the policy-making process.

In fact, Senator Irene Aguilar, Senate sponsor of SB13-200, the Medicaid expansion bill, cited that report in her testimony introducing the bill to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on March 14, 2013.  Inasmuch as the paper accepts Gruber’s conclusions regarding the effects of Medicaid expansion, they certainly may be said to have significantly influenced the decision of the state to take on the burden of Medicaid expansion.

Correction: An earlier version of this report referred to the contracting agency as CCHI, advocates for Obamacare.  The organization in question is CHI, the Colorado Health Institute.

Joshua Sharf

Joshua is co-editor of Watchdog Wire - Colorado. Contact him at Colorado@WatchdogWire.com to learn how to get involved with citizen journalism in the Boulder State. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuasharf

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Healthcare, Must Read
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