January 12,2010

Grassley says paid health care advocates should disclose federal contracts before being allowed to testify

Senator responds to reports that MIT’s Professor Gruber was paid $400,000 by HHS

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today 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 within the last year to assist the administration with health care reform legislation.

“When an academic leader comes before Congress to advocate a position, Congress should have confidence that he or she is independent and not being paid to assist the administration,” Grassley said in a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Grassley made his request after reports revealed that a high-profile advocate for certain health care reform policies was paid nearly $400,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services. Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testified in 2009 before the two Senate committees responsible for health care legislation. He has been quoted in numerous reports about the health care debate during the last year, identifying himself only as an MIT professor, rather than as a paid advocate.
“It really taints everything this particular advocate has said to learn after the fact that he was being paid to say it and the fact that he was being paid was kept secret,” Grassley said.

Yesterday, Senator Mike Enzi asked for information about Gruber’s relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services. Enzi is Ranking Member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance.