Friday, March 19

Bush's Use Of False Data: A Bad Habit

Look, we all know Medicare isn't the sexiest campaign mantra. Never was. Never will be. But for those of us with aging parents, we begin to realize how important it is and how it can be played fast and loose as a way to pander to the senior population. That's exactly what Bush did when he pushed the Medicare reform bill.

Today, the floodgates are opening as to how this bill - which has been and will continue to be one of Bush's talking points - passed with Bush's use of false data.

I'll say that again: BUSH'S USE OF FALSE DATA. Just add it to the pile of pet projects this guy has crammed down our throats that have been passed and inflicted upon us with BUSH'S USE OF FALSE DATA - this time going so far as the WH Medicare advisor threatening the guy who knew the real cost. Two major stories here, from the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Foster: White House Had Role In Withholding Medicare Data

Richard S. Foster, the government's chief analyst of Medicare costs who was threatened with firing last year if he disclosed too much information to Congress, said last night that he believes the White House participated in the decision to withhold analyses that Medicare legislation President Bush sought would be far more expensive than lawmakers knew.

Foster has said publicly in recent days that he was warned repeatedly by his former boss, Thomas A. Scully, the Medicare administrator for three years, that he would be dismissed if he replied directly to legislative requests for information about prescription drug bills pending in Congress. In an interview last night, Foster went further, saying that he understood Scully to be acting at times on White House instructions, probably coming from Bush's senior health policy adviser.
Mysterious Fax Adds to Intrigue Over the Medicare Bill's Cost

Late one Friday afternoon in January, after the House of Representatives had adjourned for the week, Cybele Bjorklund, a House Democratic health policy aide, heard the buzz of the fax machine at her desk. Coming over the transom, with no hint of the sender, was a document she had been seeking for months: an estimate by Medicare's chief actuary showing the cost of prescription drug benefits for the elderly.

Dated June 11, 2003, the document put the cost at $551.5 billion over 10 years. It appeared to confirm what Ms. Bjorklund and her bosses on the House Ways and Means Committee had long suspected: the 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.

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.

...Mr. Foster went public last week, and details of his struggle for independence within the Bush administration are now emerging, raising questions about whether the White House intentionally withheld crucial data from lawmakers.

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.