Medicare Actuary Testifies He Was Ordered To Withhold Higher Drug Bill Cost Figures From Congress
In the swirl of media activity over the last several days covering the 9/11 hearings, several things have been overlooked. One of these was a new development over the ongoing fraud surrounding the Bush Administration’s passage of the Medicare drug bill last year. Medicare’s chief actuary Richard Foster testified yesterday that he did in fact provide the White House with cost estimates as far back as last summer that the Medicare drug bill would cost far more than the CBO was predicting. Foster said he was threatened in writing with “extremely severe” consequences if he shared his cost figures with Congress. Foster told Congress yesterday that he was told directly by his boss at the time Tom Scully not to share his estimates with Congress, and Foster himself feels that Scully had that direction from the White House.
It is clear that Foster gave his estimates to not only the White House Office of Management and Budget, but also to his bosses at Health and Human Services, who testified at congressional hearings last fall on the costs of the bill without ever mentioning to Congress the higher cost estimates. That has now prompted several Democrats to ask John Ashcroft’s Justice Department to conduct an inquiry about violations of laws regarding lying to Congress. It’s important to note that both HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Bush himself have said in recent weeks that neither of them knew about the higher cost estimates from Foster until recently, which according to yesterday’s testimony were both lies. If you reject that these were lies, then you have to accept that if Bush isn’t told what his health policy adviser and OMB knows about a major piece of legislation, and Thompson isn’t told what his Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation knows about their most important issue of the year, then they are guilty of gross incompetence.