January 29,2010

Grassley, Enzi Seek Details of Health Care Economist's Paid Government Contracts

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Mike Enzi are asking a health care economist who testified before their committees without disclosing $400,000 in government contracts for work pertaining to health care reform for details of any other government contracts he might have or might have had over the last five years and for details on whether he disclosed his government ties during media interviews, speaking engagements and written works on health care reform.

Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, and Enzi, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wrote to Dr. Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gruber’s sole-source contract with the Department of Health and Human Services was not widely known, if publicly known at all, during his high-profile advocacy of the Administration’s health care reform effort.

“We are advocates of transparency in the operation of government and in the use of taxpayer dollars. While the propriety of your advocating for Administration positions in the media and other venues while failing to disclose your financial ties to the Administration has been called into question, we are especially concerned by your advocacy before the United States Congress,” Grassley and Enzi wrote to Gruber.

“When an academic leader comes before Congress to advocate a position, Congress should have confidence that the witness is both independent and objective and not being paid to assist the Administration in its efforts. In this case, we are concerned that neither you nor the Department chose to inform Congress of your substantial ties in advance of, during, or any time after, your testimony before the Finance and HELP Committees. In fact, the biography you submitted for the Finance Committee’s Roundtable Discussion makes no mention of these financial ties or affiliations.”

On Jan. 12, Grassley asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require that individuals under contract with the department disclose that financial relationship before testifying to Congress and to provide a list of those who have been contracted with within the last year to assist the administration with health care reform legislation. He has not received a response to date.

On Jan. 11, Enzi again asked for information about Gruber’s relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services, and noted that HHS responses to a July 14, 2009, letter, in which he requested detailed information on all consultants hired by HHS, omitted any information related Dr. Gruber.