Robert Pear (or "Robert Pear" in case he's not responsible for this draft) is useless on the front page of the Times today. He's addressing "New White House Estimate Lifts Drug Benefit Cost to $720 Billion" and he (or "he") appears clueless as to how we ended with a figure that wasn't the one portrayed to Congress or to the people in 2003.
There's nothing to indicate that he knows of figures withheld from Congress. We'll discuss it tonight but we'll quote from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's press release:
Republicans repeatedly misrepresented the facts and broke the law in their efforts to promote and pass Medicare legislation that provides billions in new subsidies for HMOs and big drug companies. A classic case of putting the special interests before the public interest, the Republican Medicare law was written poorly, passed illegally, misrepresented unethically and marketed unlawfully. If lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had the facts, this bill never would have passed as written and this year’s record high premium increases could possibly have been prevented. Today, Democrats are taking strong action to force the Bush Administration to release the records they withheld from Congress during the Medicare debate.
REPUBLICANS WITHHELD KEY INFORMATION ABOUT THE COST OF THE MEDICARE BILL DURING THE CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE
The Bush Administration repeatedly used the Congressional Budget Office’s $395 billion price tag to win over skeptical Republicans. But in June 2003, Rick Foster, the chief Medicare actuary at HHS concluded that the cost of the bill would be at least $551.5 billion over 10 years; the Bush Administration’s internal estimates apparently remained consistent through the year. He testified at the Ways and Means Committee this year that in November, before final passage, he estimated that it would be close to $534 billion -- $135 billion higher than expected. Although Democrats had been asking for Foster’s estimates for months, the Bush Administration refused to provide them and silenced Foster. The Administration’s internal investigation confirmed that they withheld information and threatened Foster; both the GAO and the CRS have recently determined that doing so was illegal.
DEMOCRATS TAKE ACTION, FORCING REPUBLICANS TO ADDRESS NAGGING QUESTION OF MISSING COST ESTIMATES
Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist were repeatedly asked to hold hearings to get to the bottom of this issue. They refused. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee refused to subpoena witnesses who could have cleared the air in an April hearing. Today, House Democrats will take matters into their own hands, filing a “Resolution of Inquiry” on this matter. This will require a vote in the Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees on whether to force the White House to release all records related to the cost estimates. If they fail to act within 14 legislative days, then the full House will vote.
SENIORS PAY THE PRICE WHILE INSURANCE COMPANIES PROFIT
The Republican Medicare bill has brought record high Medicare premium increase for next year – more than 17 percent above this year’s premium. As a result of this Republican-passed legislation, seniors and individuals with disabilities are facing the largest Medicare premium increase ever. A major reason for the new hike in Medicare premiums is the multi-billion dollar increase in payments to big insurance companies and HMOs that was included in the Republican drug bill – a bill that would not have passed if Congress had known the truth about this bill.
DEMOCRATS FIGHT TO LOWER MEDICARE PREMIUMS, PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY
Democrats have proposed H.R. 4910, a new bill that would protect seniors’ Social Security COLAs and benefits from the increase in Medicare premiums next year and beyond. This bill would preserve at least 75 percent of the annual COLA for expenses other than Medicare premium increases. Democrats are urging the Republican leadership to bring up this bill, so that the elderly can finally see some real relief from the skyrocketing health care costs they now face.
Somehow Pear (or "Pear") misses a huge part of the story, one that's public record.
(I've highlighted two stories, obviously there's more in this morning's paper. If there's a story you want members to take note of, e-mail the site at firstname.lastname@example.org.)