Friday, March 19, 2004

One more deception by the Bush administration: a New York Times article depicts how the cost of Bush's Medicare bill was understated.

[Medicare's chief actuary], Richard S. Foster, had concluded the legislation would be far more expensive than Congress's $400 billion estimate — and had kept quiet while lawmakers voted on the bill and President Bush signed it into law.

[Democratic congresswoman] Ms. Bjorklund had been pressing Mr. Foster for his numbers since June. When he refused, telling her he could be fired, she said, she confronted his boss, Thomas A. Scully, then the Medicare administrator. "If Rick Foster gives that to you," Ms. Bjorklund remembered Mr. Scully telling her, "I'll fire him so fast his head will spin." Mr. Scully denies making such threats...

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat and a leading critic of the Medicare bill, put the issue in stark, Watergate-era terms, saying, "What did the president know; when did he know it?"

Those questions have not been answered. But interviews with federal officials, including Mr. Foster and Mr. Scully, make clear that the actuary's numbers were circulating within the administration, and possibly on Capitol Hill, throughout the second half of last year, as Congress voted on the prescription drug bill, first in June and again in November.

But the figures were either discounted or ignored, as lawmakers and the White House grappled with the political imperative to pass the legislation.


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