Bush's Medicare deceit
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
AFTER FIRST covering up and then misrepresenting the facts about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Bush administration is now shamelessly working to further mislead the public by staging phony "news reports" about how well the law will work.
Last November, during the heat of the congressional debate on the law, the White House reportedly threatened to fire a top Medicare official if he told the truth about the cost of what President Bush described as a $400 billion Medicare bill.
Medicare's chief actuary, Robert S. Foster, said it was clear from the start that the actual cost would be substantially more -- as high as $534 billion. And, he said, the White House was aware of that in June, five months ahead of the debate.
Although, by law, the actuary is charged with providing nonpartisan counsel to lawmakers, Foster said he was silenced by the White House to prevent Congress from getting the true figures. Threatened with "severe'' personal consequences, he was instead ordered to withhold the information, even if Congress asked for it.
Absent the damning cost data, the bill (bitterly contentious even among Republicans) barely eked by, passing in the House, 216 to 215. With cost as the sticking point, the likely outcome would have been reversed, if all the facts had been known. Democrats had argued that the law didn't significantly help seniors and gave drugmakers too much clout. Republicans said seniors didn't gain significantly from the much costlier plan.
In order to sell the complicated and skimpy plan to seniors, the Department of Health and Human Services is paying actors to pose as journalists in bogus TV "news'' reports. Videos have been sent to TV stations, along with government-prepared scripts for news anchors to read. The idea is to make propaganda appear to be unbiased news during prime-time viewing.
It's a covert effort to exploit both the press and public. Coupled with the misinformation about the bill, it paints an alarming picture of a White House unconstrained about using deceit.
Repeatedly manipulating data to stifle honest debate, stirs up disquieting recollections of another White House, disgraced by lies and dirty tricks.
Gary Null: USA MEDICARE SYSTEM: Death by Medicine
Dr. Rath: The Business with Disease