Under the Dome

NC cancels contract with federal health-care official Gruber over 'stupidity of voters' comment

The MIT economics professor embroiled in a controversy over his demeaning remarks about how the federal health-care law was passed had a contract with the N.C. Office of the State Auditor that has now been terminated.

Auditor Beth Wood notified Jonathan Gruber of the decision on Wednesday, and formally gave written notice of the termination on Thursday.

Gruber was hired a year ago to help the state audit the Medicaid program that provides managed care for the poor and disabled, a review the General Assembly required in its July 2013 budget. Before he was hired, the auditor’s office checked out his background and discussed it with leaders in the General Assembly, including his role in helping create the Affordable Care Act and the health-care reform in Massachusetts, according to a timeline of the contract from the auditor’s office.

Shortly before he was hired, Gruber spoke at a conference in Pennsylvania and made this remark: "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass."

Earlier this month, his remarks became widely reported by conservative talk shows and other media. According to the auditor’s office, the day after state officials heard about his comments they met to determine what to do in response.

On Monday, the office decided to terminate the contract and notify legislative leaders, because the staff determined "it cannot provide appropriate safeguards to eliminate the appearance of an independence impairment."

The disclosure that the state had hired Gruber in the first place struck a nerve over at the Civitas Institute, where blogger Brian Balfour on Friday raised the issue of more widespread repercussions.

"Keep in mind Gov. McCrory's statements about expanding Medicaid in NC once the program has been ‘reformed.’ Now we find out that Obamacare and Romneycare architect Gruber was chosen to help guide that reform. Can we trust legislative leaders and McCrory's administration to reform Medicaid knowing whose advice they sought?"

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