Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Lots of new stuff on the political intrigue surrounding the Medicare reform bill.

The Times is really working this story. Here's what is in Thursday's issue:
  • A story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear on "a mysterious fax" received a House Democratic health policy aide (Cybele Bjorklund) that showed the CMS chief actuary's (Richard Foster's) real cost estimate for the reform bill:
    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.
    The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the White House supported an inquiry into whether Tom Scully pressured Foster to keep mum, which Scott McClellan described as "[o]bviously . . . a serious allegation."
  • Another story by Ms. Stolberg reporting that "[t]he House ethics committee voted on Wednesday to start a formal investigation into accusations of bribery surrounding last November's vote on the Medicare prescription drug law, signaling that an initial fact-finding inquiry might have produced evidence of wrongdoing":
    The panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, met behind closed doors. Afterward, it issued a statement saying it had established an investigative subcommittee to conduct "a full and complete inquiry" into the bribery claims. The accusations were made by Representative Nick Smith, Republican of Michigan, described in the Washington Post on Thursday as "a relatively obscure sixth-term House member who will retire this year, [and who] was the subject of intense lobbying on the House floor in the predawn hours of Nov. 22, as GOP leaders sought the last few votes they needed to pass a bill adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare."
  • posted by tommayo, 10:19 PM

    Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter