Topic: Government & Politics

Legal Deception on Medicare?
(4/8/2004)

"WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials insisted Thursday that they acted legally in ordering the nation's top Medicare cost analyst to keep from lawmakers his estimate that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit might cost more than $100 billion over what Congress was willing to pay."

So begins Tony Pugh's story for the Knight Ridder papers about the latest wrinkle in the ongoing controversy between Richard Foster, former chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and his boss, former Medicare administrator Thomas Scully. [See "Medicare Deception"]

The story goes on to detail Scully's rationale, which is essentially that there was no legal obligation to give Congress speculative estimates, even though such estimates had been supplied before as a matter of course, and he was within his rights to order Foster withhold it for reasons practical, political, or for any other reason.

Fine. There is no law against withholding useful and perhaps decisive information from Congress when it is deliberating on a bill that will effect the welfare of millions of Americans and cost billions of dollars. Mr. Scully, and his bullied and lily-livered subordinate, Mr. Foster, didn't break any laws.

Bully for them.

Their conduct is a perfect example of how individuals can do more damage being unethical than they would by doing something criminal. The Bush Administration, Congress, the media and the public must not allow this to be the ethical standard applied by our public servants. Whoever decided that it was appropriate to keep from Congress estimates indicating that the Medicare prescription drug benefit could cost over $500 billion in its first ten years, far above the $395 billion figure lawmakers were using, must be held accountable and severely so…it doesn't matter whether it was Scully, Karl Rove, some other administration strategist or the President himself. This is unacceptable as conduct, and it is unacceptable as a governing philosophy. Accurate sharing of essential information, open and honest, with others in the decision-making process is an ethical duty of everyone involved in policy development and legislation.

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