Don't Talk About Medicare Costs

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The Bush administration threatens to fire a bureaucrat for speaking his mind about how bloody expensive its pet Medicare expansion will be. From the Washington Post story:

The government's longtime chief analyst of Medicare costs said yesterday that Bush administration officials threatened to fire him last year if he disclosed to Congress that he believed the prescription drug legislation favored by the White House would prove far more expensive than lawmakers had been told.

Richard S. Foster, a nonpartisan Department of Health and Human Services official who has been Medicare's chief actuary for nine years, said he nearly resigned in protest because he thought the top Medicare administrator, and perhaps White House officials, were acting against the public interest by withholding information about how much changes to the program would cost.

"Certainly, Congress did not have all the information they might have wanted, or that we had," Foster said in an interview.

We have already seen an upward adjustment of estimated one-decade cost of the new benefit from $395 billion to $534 billion. I think we can safely add "and counting" to that number.

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  1. The tragicomedy that follows will be when the same folks that complained that the bill was not nearly enough suddenly get their ire up about costs.

  2. There’s a WMD joke in this somewhere, but I just can’t find it…

    My question is, why didn’t Foster resign? If you believe in your work, why allow the White House to blatantly misrepresent it to the public?

  3. I’m almost positive Congress would reform Medicare and bring the costs in line if they only “knew” the facts. Whether it’s Bush’s bill or Kerry’s, we continue to throw billions of dollars away instead of actually reforming the system. On the bright side, if Foster gets fired or resigns, that’s one less bureaucratic salary to charge to the Medicare boondoggle.

  4. “Richard S. Foster … said he nearly resigned in protest …”

    That “nearly” is what makes the difference between a champion of fiscal responsibility, and just another government weasel.

  5. So the cheif actuary claims that he intentionally produced a misleading actuararial report a year ago. And he still hasn’t resigned?

  6. {We have already seen an upward adjustment of estimated one-decade cost of the new benefit from $395 billion to $534 billion. I think we can safely add “and counting” to that number.}

    It’d be more accurate to just start adding zeros.

    {So the chief actuary claims that he intentionally produced a misleading actuarial report a year ago. And he still hasn’t resigned?}

    By staying put he’s making the point that he “intentionally produced a misleading actuarial report a year ago” yet will only be fired if he talks about it. I bet the Enron beancounters wish they had that kind of job security.

  7. “Certainly, Congress did not have all the information they might have wanted, or that we had,”

    Does he really believe that the drug plan would not have passed if the Congress knew what he knew? I don’t think so. I think every member with couple of good neurons to rub together knew the cost of the plan was being seriously lowballed, the majority just did not care. As soon as Bush and the GOP leadership decided it was politically expedient to pass some kind of drug plan, it was ordained to become law , no matter how fiscally irresponsible it was.

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