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Health Secretary Burwell: 'I'm Focused on Transparency'

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told Chuck Todd that she 'fundamentally' disagrees with controversial comments made by an architect of the ACA.
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The Secretary for Health and Human Services said Sunday morning that she does not agree with controversial comments recently made by one of the architects of health care reform. In an exclusive interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sylvia Mathews Burwell responded to the videos that surfaced this week of MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber in which he criticized American voters and their knowledge of the system.

“I have to start with how fundamentally I disagree with his comments about the bill and about the American people,” Burwell said.

The controversy began this week when videos surfaced of Gruber speaking about the writing and passage of the Affordable Care Act. “We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on the higher prices, that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing,” Gruber told an audience at the University of Rhode Island in 2012. “So (it's) a very clever, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

Critics of the healthcare reform law have used Gruber’s comments to stoke debate about the ACA and a future challenge in Congress. Burwell further pushed back on the comments, saying, “Since I’ve been at the department, one of the things that I’ve focused on is transparency, making sure all of our numbers come out whether they’re good or bad.”

Burwell told NBC’s Chuck Todd that 100,000 people submitted applications for plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, and over 500,000 were able to log in. All told, Burwell says over one million people have been able to “window shop” on the site.

When asked about projections for 2015 enrollment being lowered from 13 million to roughly 9 million, Burwell cited fewer than expected people switching from employer coverage.

“We said there’d be 28 percent growth,” said Burwell about the change in projection. “And we believe, in the second year of a new Marketplace, 28 percent growth is strong and healthy growth.”


— Shaquille Brewster and Dale Armbruster