Sunday :: Feb 1, 2004

White House Now Wants To Blame Congress For Medicare Drug Bill Deceit


by Steve

You have to hand the chutzpah award to this White House. A day after the Washington Post reported that the Administration has known since summer that the Medicare drug bill was going to cost a third more than advertised, the White House now says that it is Congressís fault that the bill costs over $530 billion instead of the advertised $400 billion over ten years.

Yesterdayís Post story said that Bush wasnít even presented with a cost estimate of the bill until two weeks ago, which means the moron signed the bill without knowing how much it cost if you are to believe that story. The Post saw internal Health and Human Services documents that showed the Administration was costing out the likely features of the program as far back as June, and had estimated the cost to be $551 billion over ten years, very close to the cost of the final bill. Now, in tomorrowís New York Times, it is reported that the White House wants to blame Congress for the cost overrun, even though Bush signed a bill for which he didnít know the cost, and for which his staff had been costing out since summer. Tommy Thompson admits that his staff has been communicating with Congress on the cost estimates since summer, but now wants to blame Congress for the bill costing too much.

Of course, if the bill cost too much, then Bush could have taken steps to bring the cost down, like keep the drug cost containment measure in the bill, but he took those out to please Big PharMa. He could also have simply vetoed the bill for not meeting the $400 billion target that was sold to everyone, a target that his administration knew was false when the bill was signed. Again, Bush apparently didnít know squat about what he signed until well after he signed it. At the same time last summer that his staff were telling Congress that the bill would cost well over $500 billion over ten years, even with the coverage gaps it contains and the lack of drug cost controls, the Democrats tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to close the coverage gaps.

The cost of closing those gaps? $64 billion over ten years, or $6.4 billion a year in a $2 trillion annual budget. The reason given by the GOP leadership in Congress for vetoing the amendment? Because it would exceed the arbitrary $400 billion limit set by the GOP, a cost that if you believe the White House now was already inoperative at that time. So you are left with the fact that the GOP and the White House didnít close the gaps not because the amendment would break the now-phony $400 billion arbitrary limit, but because the White House and GOP simply didnít want to close the gaps.

As I said a couple of days ago, this debacle is the best argument the Democrats can make for attaching drug cost controls to the bill, and yes, even for mean-testing the benefit for high-income seniors. I'm pleased to see that John Kerry has picked up on this "cost overrun=lack of drug cost controls" argument already.

Steve :: 10:06 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!