How did roughly 400,000 dental plans get included in the Obama administration's tally of health insurance exchange enrollments?
That will be the main focus of Tuesday's hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. The embarrassing gaffe reduced the number of exchange enrollees to less than 7 million just before the start of Obamacare's second open-enrollment period last month. That's still above the revised estimate of 6 million enrollments predicted by the Congressional Budget Office for 2014.
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner undoubtedly will get a grilling from outgoing committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his colleagues about how the numbers got garbled or manipulated.
But another scheduled witness, economist Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is likely to inspire far greater vitriol. The academic, who played a research role in designing both Obamacare and RommeyCare in Massachusetts, has become the bete noire of reform foes since a series of videos surfaced last month showing Gruber discussing the healthcare law in highly impolitic terms. In the most notorious clip, Gruber argued that Democrats relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” to hide the costs of the legislation and win its passage.
The voluble Gruber has largely gone silent since the controversy went viral. Republicans undoubtedly will relish the opportunity make him squirm before the cameras, while Democrats cringe. “This is just going to be pure political theater for Fox News,” said John Gorman, a Washington-based healthcare consultant who served in the Clinton administration. “It's just all Republican smoke and no fire.”