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Jonathan Gruber Not Surprised By Health Connector Board Removal

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – The most well-known member of the Massachusetts Health Connector board of directors said he saw it coming.

MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber and three other board members were asked to resign Wednesday by Governor Charlie Baker.

Gruber became famous last year as the man who said Obamacare was conceived to take advantage of what he called "the stupidity of the American voter."  He later apologized.

He told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Thursday he got the word in a cordial phone call from Baker's chief of staff, who said the governor wants to take the board in a new direction.

"I'm not sure I necessarily anticipated the timing, but I certainly felt like my term was coming up and the governor probably would want to appoint his own person," Gruber told WBZ's Joe Mathieu.

Some, such as WBZ-TV's Jon Keller, criticized Gruber's comments as "spin," because he no longer had any credibility.

"Basically I see no other reason for the governor to get rid of all the members of the board at the same time, except that he really wants to shake up the board, take it in a new direction and put his own stamp on it," Gruber told WBZ.

"If this was a year ago, I could certainly understand needing to shake things up because last year was a disaster with the web enrollment. This year's gone very well. I'm actually very pleased to be leaving the Connector at what I consider a high point, so I'm not quite sure what (Baker) has in mind."

The connector has spent much of the past year trying to recover from the botched rollout of a website that was created to merge the state's existing health care law with the federal law. A revamped website was launched late last year and officials say it has functioned well.

Baker told reporters Thursday the agency had "underperformed" and he wanted to replace the four on the board with members of his own team.

Gruber was originally appointed to the board by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and reappointed by Romney's successor, Deval Patrick. Baker also asked for the resignations of George Gonser, John Bertko and Rick Jakious, all Patrick appointees.

Once Baker names the four replacements, he will have control of the 11-member board, which already includes two members of his cabinet, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore.

"We want to put our team on the field there, and get that thing functioning in a way the public should expect it to function," Baker said.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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