What to Do About Obamacare and the ‘Stupidity of the American Voter’

by Avik Roy

Jonathan Gruber, the “Obamacare architect,” has been caught on tape declaring that he and his Democratic colleagues had to hide Obamacare’s true costs from the public in order to take advantage of the “stupidity of the American voter.” Veronique de Rugy and Joel Gehrke write about it below; I have a piece about it in Forbes. I’d like to make three quick points.

American voters are smarter than Gruber thinks. Polls about Obamacare have always shown that voters were skeptical of government promises that the law would reduce health costs and the deficit. The irony is that it was progressive health-care experts like Gruber who ridiculed voters for having that view. Lefty commentators have long claimed that Obamacare’s unpopularity stems from the fact that voters are willfully ignorant of the law’s virtues. But it turns out that the voters were right — Democrats have hidden the law’s true costs through a complex web of insurance regulations — and that’s a leading reason as to why the law is so unpopular.

The next Congress should repeal some of Obamacare’s least transparent provisions. This problem — the problem of how Obamacare’s regulations and mandates drive up the cost of individually-purchased health insurance — is something we’ve been carefully documenting at the Manhattan Institute. Our Obamacare cost map shows you, by ZIP code, how much the law increases underlying premiums. The best way for Republicans to respond to this problem is to repeal or roll back the parts of the law that drive costs upward. In particular, age-based community rating forces young people to pay twice as much for health insurance, driving many of them out of the market.

The next Congress should impose transparency upon the CBO. The Congressional Budget Office is arguably the most important government agency that nobody knows anything about. The CBO is Congress’s official estimator of the impact that proposed legislation will have on spending, tax revenue, and health-insurance coverage. But the CBO doesn’t open up its models for outside observers to examine and critique. This has got to end. Though the CBO has made an effort to improve its approach, the prospects for far-reaching entitlement and tax reform are stymied by the CBO’s outdated methods. The best way to change those methods is to expose them to the public.

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