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Jonathan Gruber, who has been the biggest proponent of the excise tax, and was quoted extensively in several articles and linked to by other health care analyst bloggers to defend the excise tax, did not disclose that he was paid by the HHS to the tune of $297,600 in his recent and ongoing contract to provide technical assistance for evaluation options for national healthcare reform.

This contract apparently was a continuation of another contract he'd held for $95,000 from March 2009 to July 25, 2009 according to emptywheel.

So, for the entire year, he received $392,000 from HHS and did not disclose that at all in any of his articles, except in a December 24, 2009 article for the New England Journal of Medicine. You have to search really hardto find the form of disclosure on that article.  This first came up to my attention in a comment from Mote Dai.

Here are the links to articles written in the past eight months by Jonathan Gruber, in which he didn't disclose his being paid by the HHS agency within the Obama administration.

  1. September 3, 2009, Boston Globe
  1. Jonathan Gruber produced a set of figures on December 21, 2009 that have been cited in numerous blogs and articles at the request of Jonathan Cohn at TNR.
  1. Jonathan Gruber as one of the 23 economists who sent a letter to the WH extolling the virtues of the excise tax on November 17th.
  1. Also, Gruber's article in the New England Journal of Medicine mentions that no conflict of interest was reported. Gruber solicited the funds from HHS on May 21st, 2009, and received the award on June 19, 2009. The article was published on June 10, 2009 on the website. The print version came out on July 2, 2009 without being updated about Gruber's pending contract with HHS. It also did not mention his second contract of $95,000 which was scheduled to end on July 25, 2009. That second contract would HAVE required a disclosure which Gruber did not provide.
  1. July 11, 2009, New York Times. Gruber also doesn't mention that he has a conflict of interest in pushing these specific proposals.
  1. August 11, 2009, the Hastings Center. Still no mention of his being paid by HHS.
  1. And even after Gruber made that disclosure form for the New England Journal of Medicine on December 25, 2009, he still didn't disclose in any of his articles after that, including the December 28th, 2009 article which he wrote for the Washington Post.

Dr. Gruber, has been quoted extensively by the White House as an 'objective voice' on health care reform. He also has been cited five times on the White House blog. He also was one of the 23 economists that Peter Orzsag reached out to when Peter Orzsag asked them for their views in support of health insurance reform. Here is the letter as provided by Professor DeLong.

Dr. Gruber has responded about his lack of disclosure to Ben Smith at Politico, which you can see here below:

I asked Gruber about the reports, and he responded by stressing that the contract was not for public relations, but for analysis, and that he's long advocated for a consistent set of policies:


I do indeed have a contract with HHS. Throughout this year I have provided technical assistance to the administration and to Congress with my micro-simulation model, as well as based on my experience as a member of the Massachusetts health connector board. But NONE of the work I have done in public, or any public declarations I ahve made, has been in any way funded by the Administration. That funding was strictly for internal work that I did for the administration and, via the administration, for congress. All externally visible work and comments, such as my editorials or public reports, have been done on my own time.

   Moreover, at no time have I publicly advocated a position that I did not firmly believe - indeed, I have been completely consistent with my academic track record. On the two issues this article raises:

   1) I am known in economics as one of the leading experts on the impact of health insurance costs on wages - indeed, I wrote my thesis on that topic and have written extensively since on the fact that health insurance costs are fully translated into wages. I was asked by the editors of the Handbook of Health Economics, a review of literature in this area, to write the review article on this topic.

   2) In my role as a member of the MA Health Connector board, I had to help decide what were affordable subsidies for our citizens. I was surprised to find how little work there was on this topic so I undertook a study to help lay out what might be considered affordable. I have since replicated that analysis at the federal level. Every position I have advocated on this topic is completely consistent with these reports.

Gruber told POLITICO that he has told reporters of the contract "whenever they asked" and noted that he formally disclosed that "I am a paid consultant to the Obama Administration" in a form attached to his most recent, December 24 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, though it wasn't widely known by reporters on the beat.

I find it interesting that Dr. Gruber did not mention his being paid by HHS in any of his articles, and especially in that June 10, 2009, article on the New England Journal of Medicine which requires a disclosure to be made. And that after he made disclosure on the December 24 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, he still did not make it in any of his articles after that.  

As an addendum, I promised Richard Smith of the blog that I'd post a picture of Alabama if they won on my blog. It was a bloggers wager I'd entered into--and if UT had won, Richard would've posted it on his blog. Ah, well. Here's a pic for the Crimson Tide fans:


UPDATE: Ben Smith notes that the Washington Post asked Gruber to disclose before he wrote op-eds for them, and he did not do so:

UPDATE: Washington Post op-ed editor Autumn Brewington emails that the Post, as a practice, asks writers to disclose any "conflicts of interest that might be relevant to this op-ed, including but not limited to financial or family relationships with any of the subjects of the article" and that Gruber, when asked whether he "received any funding, for research or otherwise, from organizations or persons identified in the column," answered "no."

UPDATE 2: Autumn Brewington says that it was ok for Gruber not to disclose, but contends that more disclosure is always better than less disclosure.

Update [2010-1-8 16:53:36 by slinkerwink]: She also defended the column. "The subject of the op-ed was not related to Gruber's work for the administration, and we accepted the column based on the body of his work and knowledge in this field," Brewington said in an email. "Generally we think more disclosure is better than less. But in this case he was writing about a Senate proposal and an idea that he has been promoting for years, so in the end we might well have decided his work for the administration was not relevant."

Originally posted to slinkerwink on Fri Jan 08, 2010 at 08:33 AM PST.

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