Public needs to know complete cost of new Medicare drug benefit

What others say

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

The investigative arm of Congress should look into whether administration officials intentionally withheld the correct figures on the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. ...

Recently, an actuary in the Health and Human Services Department claimed that he had correctly calculated the cost at more than $500 billion before the bill was passed, but his supervisor within the department prohibited him from sharing that information with Congress.

That kind of secrecy can't be tolerated. Lawmakers and the public should have known the cost of the program. The correct cost should have been part of the debate over the bill. It probably would have changed the outcome. ...

Federal lawmakers are using this as an excuse and as a cover for their own duplicity. Members of Congress knew that they had underestimated the cost of this new Medicare program. But they were eager to pass it and create the appearance that they were helping elderly citizens afford their prescriptions.

Now, it is helpful for them to have someone else to blame for the low cost estimates they used to justify the program. ...

That kind of thing happens all the time. But if investigators find that employees were threatened to keep the cost information secret, that behavior crosses the sometimes fuzzy line between spinning the political debate and lying to the nation.

Congress should investigate and take action against any violation of federal law.

Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C. - March 25

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