Baker says he sought resignations of Gruber, 3 others to put own stamp on health connector

Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he asked for and received the resignations of four members of the state's health connector board because the agency had "underperformed" and he wanted to replace them with members of his own team.

Among the four who agreed to step down was MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who came under fire for saying it was "the stupidity of the American voter" that led to the passage of President Barack Obama's 2010 heath care law. Gruber has since apologized for his comments.

"It's no secret that the health connector has underperformed over the last few years and that has had real consequences for the people of the commonwealth as well as the taxpayers of the commonwealth," Baker told reporters.

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.

The governor has blamed the connector breakdown — which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents being put on temporary Medicaid coverage — for contributing to a deficit in the state's $36 billion budget.

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.

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

"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-AM.