- Democrats say an internal Bush administration
investigation into the new Medicare law confirms
there was a coordinated effort to keep its
true costs from Congress and the public.
Health and Human Services Department inspector
general said in a report released Tuesday
that administration officials broke no laws
in withholding the cost estimates from Congress.
But the report described the aggressive tactics
that were used to keep lawmakers from learning
that the administration had estimates of the
legislation's cost that were $100 billion
more than the president and other officials
Scully, the administration's Medicare chief
until December, threatened to fire chief Medicare
actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from
giving information to lawmakers. Scully, then
the administrator of the federal Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services, "has the final
authority to determine the flow of information
to Congress," the unsigned report said.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Tuesday: "The
IG's report describes the extraordinary deception
of Bush administration officials to cover
up the true costs of the Medicare bill. What
they did was clearly wrong by any definition."
Democrats said the inspector general's inquiry
was narrowly tailored, underscoring the need
for an independent investigation that also
looks at what role the White House may have
played in the suppression of information.
sounds as though the Bush administration examined
itself and found it did nothing wrong," said
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., senior Democrat
on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee.
inspector general's conclusion contradicted
the findings of the nonpartisan Congressional
Research Service, which said in May that threats
against Foster designed to keep him from giving
Democratic lawmakers his projections of the
bill's cost probably broke the law. The Justice
Department , in an opinion attached to Tuesday's
report, said CRS was wrong.
the reaction from Democrats, the administration
said the report should be the end of the matter.
"We hope that with the release of this report
we can put behind us the political squabbling
and move on to the important work of implementing
the new law," HHS spokesman Bill Pierce said.
seemed unlikely since the General Accounting
Office, Congress' investigative arm, is also
looking into whether the gag order on Foster
violated federal law.
Corrigan, the acting HHS inspector general,
said her office is also continuing to investigate
the ethics waiver that HHS Secretary Tommy
Thompson granted Scully, allowing him to continue
work on Medicare legislation while he was
looking for work with law and investment firms
that have clients affected by the legislation.
various investigations highlight the trouble
the Bush administration has had in promoting
the new Medicare prescription drug law, thought
to be an election-year boon for the GOP. The
law's first widely available tangible benefit,
the Medicare-approved discount drug card program,
has gotten off to a slow, confusing start.
Associated Press reported a year ago that
Scully threatened to fire Foster if Foster
released his calculations to Democrats. Scully
said his comments were "heated rhetoric in
middle of the night."
the matter took on a new life when the administration
projected in the budget it submitted to Congress
in January that the 10-year cost of the bill
would be $534 billion, instead of $395 billion
estimate used in writing the legislation.
estimates, written during consideration of
the bill, still have yet to be made public
or turned over to congressional Democrats
who have requested them.
March, Thompson promised to release them and
said the inspector general's investigation
would clear the air.
seems to be a cloud over this department because
of this. We have nothing to hide, so I want
to make darn sure everything comes out," Thompson
since then, he has refused to release the
documents in question. House Democrats have
sued for the documents in federal court and
The Associated Press, which sought the same
materials under the Freedom of Information
Act, has appealed the withholding of 149 pages
out of 162 pages that the agency acknowledges
are responsive to its request.
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