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Colorado taxpayers finance Gruber-Gate

Approximately $300,000 of government money was used to finance MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s analysis of the State Health Insurance Exchange in 2011.  The contract was administered by the Colorado Health Initiative (CHI), a left-leaning think tank concerned with health and health insurance policy.  The money appears to have come from a State Planning Grant to the Governor’s Office from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

On March 6, 2011, the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) issued its Request for Proposals (RFP) for “An Independent Consulting Firm to Conduct Background Research to Support the Development of a Health Insurance Exchange in Colorado.”  That RFP was issued on behalf of the Insurance Exchange Planning Effort, which CHI was acting as the third-party administrator for.  The budget for the research contract is stated in the RFP as 250,000 – $375,000.

The planning effort was run out of the Governor’s Office, with a $1 million grant (awarded in September of 2010), and an additional $250,000 supplement awarded in December of 2011, both from CMS.  Gruber presented his initial findings to the planning effort’s Data Advisory Working Group (DAWG) at a September 16, 2011 meeting of that body, and his final report in January of 2012.  It is unclear if the $250,000 supplement was intended specifically for Gruber’s research, or was simply part of the larger administrative effort.

Gruber’s work was widely used both in the planning effort, and in later policy discussions.  Watchdog Wire has already reported that Gruber’s research was quoted in a report in support of the state’s 2013 Medicaid expansion effort, which report was referred to in committee testimony by one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver).

In addition, the government refers to its hiring of Prof. Gruber in both of its subsequent applications, for Level One and Level Two support grants from CMS, both of which were also approved.  Its description of the target insurance market was also used by CHI in developing its marketing plans for the Exchange.

What remains unclear is the process by which Mr. Gruber and the actuarial firm Wakely Consulting Group, which often worked with Mr. Gruber, were selected to lead the research.

Featured image from Shuttertsock

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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