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Step off, old man!
Thursday, 8 July 2004

This story about Tom Scully, former head of Medicare is disturbing and of course, it's garnering little attention. It's just further proof of the media's dereliction of duty. Hey, American people: it's your money! Don't you think your elected officials should know how much this bill was going to cost before voting on it. Anyway, here it is:

The former Medicare chief pressured an agency official to keep secret his high cost estimates for prescription drug coverage for the elderly but did not break the law, government investigators said Tuesday.

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services HHS) confirmed allegations that former Medicare Administrator Tom Scully, appointed by President Bush, worked to keep the estimate from lawmakers as they considered whether to pass the bill last year.

Scully left the government last year for a private law firm.

Some congressional Democrats called for a congressional probe, saying the report lacked independence and relied on the administration's own legal reasoning.

Months after its enactment, the Medicare bill remains controversial, in part because of the flap over cost estimates. Whether the bill could have passed if conservative Republicans knew that Medicare's chief actuary thought it would cost $534 billion in 10 years -- a third more than congressional budget officials estimated -- is an open question.

The report said Scully, then head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, failed to meet congressional requests for information and threatened his top actuary, Richard Foster, if he did not withhold the estimate. Foster has said he thought he would be fired if he defied Scully.

"Scully warned Foster that he would take disciplinary action if Foster failed to conform," the report said.

The report found Scully acted "within the scope of his authority" and did not violate the law. However, investigators said they would have referred the matter for possible disciplinary action if Scully still worked for the government.

(This is the part that kills me -- blame it on the 'vicious election cycle.') "I am glad my public service, which I thoroughly enjoyed, ended before we got into (the) current, vicious election cycle," Scully e-mailed in response to a request for comment.

Several Democrats said they wanted to know if anyone in the White House had been involved.

"Unfortunately, the chances of the public ever learning the whole story are dim. ... The need for a full congressional investigation is clearer than ever," Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement.

Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said Scully's conduct was "inappropriate" even though the probe concluded he did not break the law.

Posted by brettdavey at 8:54 AM EDT
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