Video: HHS Secretary implies Gruber persona non grata ... $400,000 later

For a man who got millions for consulting on health-insurance regulation, including as much as the President of the United States for a year’s worth of work at HHS, Jonathan Gruber doesn’t have too many friends at the agency. Secretary Sylvia Burwell distanced herself from Gruber yesterday on Meet the Press, telling Chuck Todd that HHS won’t be reaching out to Gruber for consultations any time soon:

Burwell can certainly distance herself from Gruber. She didn’t join the Obama administration until early 2013, when Barack Obama appointed her as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Burwell took over HHS in June 2014, long after Gruber was needed to fool CBO on scoring ObamaCare. But she can’t distance her agency from its connection to Gruber. They paid nearly $400,000 for twelve months of his work, which according to Gruber himself was spent in trying to game CBO scoring to fool Congress and the American public.

In the same interview, Burwell bragged about the results of the first day in ObamaCare open enrollment:

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell said 100,000 people submitted applications for coverage under the Affordable Care Act on Saturday, the first day of the law’s second enrollment period.

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Burwell said that more than 500,000 people were able to log on to the government’s Web site,, and that more than 1 million people have been “window-shopping” for insurance options.

“I think the vast majority of people coming to the site were able to get on and do what they had to do,” she said.

ObamaCare supporters also used that number to declare how popular the system had become. That ignores one big, ugly fact: most of the eight million people who enrolled last year have to enroll again this year, especially if they want to avoid a big premium hike. Thanks to HHS and the IRS recalculating the basis rate for subsidies, nearly everyone who signed up last year is at a big risk for large cost increases unless they choose a plan with less coverage for 2015.

Under those circumstances, it’s hardly news that the first day of a 30-day open enrollment period amounted to less than 1% of the previously announced enrollment figures. At that rate, ObamaCare will only enroll 3 million people for 2015, although we can expect the pace to pick up toward the end of the period. That’s not an achievement; it’s a symptom, especially because they don’t have a massive website failure in the accounting.

Besides, the ObamaCare portal didn’t exactly get off to all that smooth a start anyway:

New and returning customers to this year will have one less option if they run into difficulties. In the run-up to the initial launch in 2013, the Obamacare website promoted a “live chat” feature in addition to the toll-free phone number to be available 24/7 to answer questions …

This year, however, the “contact us” page on the site includes only a phone number, and the “blue box” mentioned in the excerpt above is nowhere to be seen.

These days, who doesn’t have on-line chat help? Only the geniuses at the federal government who thought they were smarter than the private sector … like Jonathan Gruber, for instance.

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