[Editor’s note: Opinions attributed to Jonathan Gruber are his own. Those not attributed are the opinions of the author.]
CFO’scoverage of the Affordable Care Act has included much scrutiny of new costs companies must bear to comply with the law. We’ve focused relatively little on the purposes of the ACA and its potentially positive long-term cost implications.
There may be no more apt spokesman for those matters than Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who helped design both the ACA and the Massachusetts Health Connector program on which it was based. Gruber recently served as keynote speaker at a conference for health-insurance brokers hosted by Sun Life Financial, a Canada-based group-benefits provider.
Certainly, finance executives who are skeptical or even scornful of the ACA well outnumber those who see some chance that the law could move the U.S. health-care system in a positive direction over time. Gruber’s views may not hold much weight with the former group, especially since he makes no pretense of being unbiased. “You will probably not find a more biased observer of this law than me,” he told the conference attendees.
“Nonetheless,” he also said, “the facts speak very clearly to how successful it’s been.”
At a basic level, supporting the ACA, or at least not rejecting it outright, demands some level of agreement with the premise that too many Americans are uninsured, often because they don’t have access to affordable health insurance. Opposing arguments that begin (and/or end) with “we can’t afford to provide that access to everyone” miss the point, which is that we have to find a way to do that in order to think of our society as a modern, civilized, humane one.
Gruber, of course, agrees. “We’re the only developed nation in the world where you can be denied insurance or charged incredibly high prices for insurance just because you’re sick. That defeats the entire concept of insurance,” he said. “In no meaningful sense do Americans have insurance if they don’t get it from their employer or from the government.”