By Erin Smith
Gov. Charlie Baker moved to seize control of the state's Health Connector board yesterday forcing out four members -- including MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, the controversial architect of Obamacare.
Baker demanded and received resignations from board members George Gonser Jr., John M. Bertko, Rick Jakious and Gruber, according to the governor's office. All four were appointed by former Gov. Deval Patrick.
Gruber, who helped engineer President Obama's Affordable Care Act, remained on the board last year even after he came under fire for a video that surfaced of him saying "the stupidity of the American voter" required Obamacare to maintain a "lack of transparency."
The resignations give Baker control of the 11-member board, which also includes two Baker administration bosses. Board chairwoman Marylou Sudders is Baker's secretary of health and human services and board member Kristen Lepore is his secretary of administration and finance.
"It's good that they've ripped off the Band-Aid and now it's time to get to work," said Josh Archambault, director of health care policy for the Pioneer Institute. "Fresh ideas are certainly needed based on past performance. It will be one of the many departments that will have to be more efficient."
Archambault said Baker had to seize control of the Health Connector board to avoid adding to the $1.5 billion budget gap that the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is projecting for the coming fiscal year.
"It could make that budget gap worse if the Health Connector turned around to the Legislature and said we need $20 million more to operate," Archambault said. "The size of the Connector budget is going to be a lot smaller than it used to be because they failed to sign up the number of people they used to have. They didn't do a very good job with outreach and enrollment and wasted a lot of taxpayer money doing it."
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito previously suggested the administration could dismiss Health Connector board members for mismanagement and expensive cost overruns as a result of its disastrous website launch.
"Whoever is responsible for the shortcomings there, we will hold accountable," she said on Boston Herald Radio.
Jakious declined comment when reached yesterday. The other three resigning members could not be reached last night.
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