Federal Affordable Care Act consultant Jonathan Gruber, who said voter "stupidity" was a key for the health law's passage, earned $340,000 helping Minnesota develop its health exchange.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology health economist worked with Minnesota officials in 2011 and 2012 on assessing options for the state's exchange, according to a state contract. The exchange, then in the planning stages, was launched last year as MNsure.
The Minnesota contract says the state hired Gruber to analyze Minnesota health insurance, health coverage and "model the effect of policy options available to policymakers under the ACA, related to exchanges."
Comments Gruber made at a 2013 conference about voters resurfaced this week, providing new heat to the battle against the federal health care overhaul. Gruber was a key adviser to President Obama for the 2010 federal law and had helped design the Massachusetts health exchange more than a decade ago under then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican. Gruber has consulted for several states since.
In a videotaped panel discussion last year, Gruber said that "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 to getting the thing to pass." But, he added, "I'd rather have this law than not."
Gruber has since apologized for what he termed his off-the-cuff remarks. But he also was recorded repeating the claim that American voters are "stupid" in a recently resurfaced video.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he "vigorously" disagreed with Gruber's assessment that the health care law was less than transparent.
Minnesota Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said he knew Gruber had done work for Minnesota and said the comments that recently came to light were disappointing.
"If we're in the business of the end justifying the means and purposely writing legislation designed to obfuscate what's really going on in order to get something passed. … I don't think anyone likes that idea," Hoppe said. He added that he did not believe the Minnesota health exchange was designed to lack transparency or take advantage of voter stupidity.
"This is not the exchange that I would have designed but I don't think it was purposely designed to be a wreck," said Hoppe, who was chair of the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee in 2011.
Bob Hume, Gov. Mark Dayton's deputy chief of staff, said the administration does not agree at all with Gruber's claims that the health law was not transparent and that voters were in any way stupid. He noted that Gruber's report for the state is available online.
"His work was transparent in Minnesota," Hume said.