ObamaCare 622

Jonathan Gruber is trying to blame the increasing the cost of health care on new drugs to treat hepatitis, instead of ObamaCare.

You Remember Gruber – one of ObamaCare’s chief architects? He helped draft ObamaCare while being paid nearly $400,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services. He is also the guy who admitted the Obama administration’s successful passage of the law was due to the “stupidity of the American voter.”

In 2009, Gruber knew that ObamaCare would lead to increases in the cost of health care. At the time, Gruber even admitted that the only way to control costs is to effectively deny treatment. Nevertheless, he continued to claim the law would lead to lower premiums.

It’s wise to take anything Jonathan Gruber says or puts his name on with a grain of salt and to fact check his claims. This is after all the man who once said the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and boasted the Democrats relied on, “basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter” to pass the ObamaCare.

 You can watch Gruber make all these outrageous admissions in the following video:

Transcript via Real Clear Politics.

JONATHAN GRUBER, OBAMACARE ARCHITECT: This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay. So it was written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law that said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in sick people get money it would not have passed. Okay.

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 in getting the thing to pass, and, you know, it’s the second best argument. And I wish Mark was right, we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not. So there are things I’d wish I could change, but I’d rather have this law than not.

Now Gruber is making new claims, this time as a member of the Governing Board of the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). HCCI recently released its 2014 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report, the headline-grabbing finding of which is that life saving prescription medicines are increasing the cost of health care. The organization is backed by the insurance industry and uses insurance industry data. Its Data Integrity Committee, a group tasked with ensuring the completeness of the data it uses, is led by an insurance executive, Ted Prospect. But that hasn’t stopped the media and some in Congress from taking the report at face value.

In an obvious attempt to set up a future denial to patients of the benefits of the expensive, new drugs, Gruber’s HCCI report blames brand name prescription drugs like breakthrough medicines that cure Hepatitis C, as the principle culprit for the sky rocketing cost of health care. HCCI highlighted the new Hepatitis C drugs in its press release:

Hep C Drugs Drove Higher Spending on Brand Prescriptions

In 2014, spending grew fastest for brand prescriptions, with an increase of 8.2 percent ($45)–the largest increase in spending on brand prescriptions in recent years. By comparison, in 2012, spending on brand prescriptions declined by $3. Hepatitis C antiviral drugs accounted for $29.40 of the $45 increase. The average price per filled day (not including rebates, discounts, or coupons) of Hepatitis C drugs was $983.30, compared to $38.30 for all other brand anti-infective medications. There were 30 filled days of Hepatitis C drugs per 1,000 individuals in 2014.

To make sure you get the point, in an apparent afterthought, there is something titled, “Trend to Note: Hepatitis C Drugs and the National ESI Population,” which again hits the cost of the three named drugs.

I’m no more a fan of expensive drugs than the next guy, but even the New York Times Editorial Board recognizes the value of these recently approved expensive Hepatitis C drugs:

The drugs are sorely needed. The hepatitis C virus caused nearly 20,000 deaths in the United States in 2013, many in patients who were also infected with H.I.V., the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, a double whammy that triples their risk of liver disease.

[. . .]

The benefits of these new drugs are undeniable. They can essentially cure the infection in eight to 24 weeks. Older medications are not nearly as effective and often produce disabling side effects. Curing the patient decreases by more than 80 percent the risk of liver cancer, liver failure and the need for a liver transplant, thus saving money in the long run.

The Times also reports that most state Medicaid programs, in an effort to control costs, have placed restrictions on making the drugs widely available:

These include requiring that patients have advanced liver disease before they can get the drug, requiring patients to abstain from alcohol or illicit drugs for at least a year before treatment, and requiring that the drugs be prescribed only by specialists like infectious disease experts or gastroenterologists.

According to the Times’ editorial the restrictions run counter to guidelines published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

One doesn’t need to be an MIT economist – indeed one could just be a stupid American voter – to see that Gruber and the HCCI are trying to “control costs” by effectively denying treatment. Don’t forget that Gruber admitted in 2009 that this is the only way to control health care costs.

It’s definitely wise to be suspicious when Jonathan Gruber is involved in health care policy.