Jonathon Gruber, a prominent and well-respected health care economist, is so well respected that he was hired by Health and Human Services to crunch numbers for the same health plans he is routinely lauding in the press. Is that a conflict of interest? Well, let's think of it as a an overlap of interest - he was hired because he was already symparico to the Administration and has remained so throughout. The money may bot have changed his views or analysis bit it certainly ought to have been disclosed.
And now that this has become public we know the NY Times will leap to correct its own reporting! No peeking - do you think the Times will (a) stonewall this; (b) run a cryptic correction correcting nothing; (c) regale us with another Public Editor apologia; or (d) note the many times they have quoted Gruber and assure us that They Will Do Beter Next Time (if the Administration is Republican).
OK, I peeked - the winner is (b); the Times opted for faux disclosure over full disclosure:
On July 12, the Op-Ed page published an article by Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at M.I.T., on health insurance and taxation. On Friday, Professor Gruber confirmed reports that he is a paid consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services, and that his contract was in effect when he published his article. The article did not disclose this relationship to readers.
Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Professor Gruber signed a contract that obligated him to tell editors of such a relationship. Had editors been aware of Professor Gruber’s government ties, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his article.
Well, that almost covers it, although the Times is strangely coy about the $297,600 in question - is that too much money to mention, or not enough? (and here is a link to the op-ed.) The Times also cites Gruber supporting an Adminstration position in a story published today which makes no mention of his large financial tie to the Administration. Are they kidding? Here we go:
Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, predicted the excise tax [aka the "cadillac tax"] would raise workers’ wages from 2010 to 2019. “There are many academic studies showing that when health costs rise, wages fall,” he said. “In the mid- and late 1990s, when we got health costs under control, wages rose nicely.” But he added that other factors could have also lifted wages during that period.
Evidently the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing.
Perhaps a subsequent Editor's Note can clarify whether the Times is still comfortable with the way they cited Prof. Gruber one, two, three editorials. These snippets would be far less impressive if Gruber were identified as on the government payroll. I have added a hypothetical correction:
An analysis by Jonathan Gruber, a respected health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [who has received nearly $300,000 from the Administration to evaluate its health care plans] , using data generated by the Congressional Budget Office, demonstrates that even in its current form the Finance Committee’s bill would actually save individuals and families who currently buy their own policies hundreds if not thousands of dollars in annual premiums.
...Jonathan Gruber, a prominent health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [who has received nearly $300,000 from the Administration to evaluate its health care plans], believes that all of the pending bills in Congress would make health insurance affordable to the vast majority of Americans and that none of the bills would require anyone to buy insurance they could not afford.
An analysis by Jonathan Gruber, a respected health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [who has received nearly $300,000 from the Administration to evaluate its health care plans], concluded that those small businesses that are not exempt would see little impact on employment or profits, although employers would reduce wages to compensate for providing added benefits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the chief arbiter of the impact of legislation, has come to similar conclusions.
After the Times editors have re-thought their editorials they might tun to the reporting of David Leonhardt, who quoted Gruber in one, two, three, four stories in support of the reform effort. More snippets:
- In recent days, the Finance Committee has been considering precisely such a tax, on the health benefits that Americans receive from their employers.
The fact that these benefits are not taxed, as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber notes, stems from “nothing more than an arbitrary administrative decision made 60 years ago.”
- Health reform, done right, also has enormous potential.... Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T. calls himself “a known skeptic on this stuff” before adding, “I can’t think of a thing to try that they didn’t try.”
- People with Cadillac plans are no healthier than people with Chevy Malibu plans. (Similarly, Americans are no healthier than citizens of rich countries that spend far less on medical care.) “Taking someone who’s uninsured and giving them insurance unambiguously improves their health,” says Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at M.I.T., “but taking someone who’s well-insured and making them really well-insured doesn’t make them any healthier.”
The Times loves to pretend that they have mastered every details, and regular readers take delight in the absurd "who cares" corrections exemplified by today's offering:
An article on Friday about changes in the late-night schedule at NBC misstated part of the name of the show on CBS that competes with “The Tonight Show” on NBC. It is “Late Show With David Letterman,” not “Late Night With David Letterman.” (That was the name of his show on NBC.)
So it's "Late Show", not "Late Night". Menawhile Prof. Gruber, well compensated by the Administration, continues to prop up the Administration positions with no disclosure by the Times.