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Harris questions NIH grant to Gruber

The Baltimore Sun
Gruber is on pace to receive $2 million from NIH grant, Harris says.

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris on Wednesday questioned a National Institutes of Health grant awarded to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, an administration health care consultant who has come under fire for recent comments about the "stupidity of the American voter."

"Recent developments related to Dr. Gruber raise questions about his objectivity and judgment, and thus the utility of his research," Harris and Republican Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania wrote in a letter to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of Bethesda-based NIH.

Gruber has received $1.5 million from the agency to study how seniors choose Medicare Part D plans, according to the letter. Harris and Pitts said Gruber is "on pace" to receive more than $2 million.

An NIH spokeswoman could not be reached Wednesday night to offer reaction to the letter. Gruber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gruber was a Department of Health and Human Services consultant who frequently visited the White House as the national health care law was crafted in 2009. In a year-old video that surfaced last week, Gruber suggested that the "stupidity of the American voter" and a "lack of transparency" contributed the controversial law's approval.

Harris, a Hopkins-trained physician, is a member of the House subcommittee that has oversight of health spending, including at the NIH. He represents the state's 1st Congressional District.

"If NIH were to continue funding Dr. Gruber's grant, would you recommend that Congress and others utilize Dr. Gruber's study given his deplorable views on the intelligence of Americans?" Harris and Pitts wrote. "If you do recommend utilizing it, how would you justify that decision, especially to seniors who rely on Medicare Part D?"

White House officials have said the administration does not share Gruber's view and it has sought to downplay his role in crafting the measure.

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