HHS Secretary Says He Will Not Release Additional Documents on CMS Cost Estimates for Medicare Law
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday said that he will not release additional documents related to Bush administration cost estimates for the new Medicare law, despite a formal request issued on Monday by Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee, CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 4/29). According to White House Office of Management and Budget estimates released after Congress passed the Medicare law last November, the legislation will cost $534 billion over 10 years -- $134 billion more than the cost previously estimated by the Congressional Budget Office. CMS chief actuary Richard Foster has said that the administration had the higher cost estimate before the final House and Senate votes on the Medicare law and that throughout the legislative process, his estimates on the cost of the legislation ranged from $500 billion to $600 billion over 10 years. President Bush and Thompson have said that the Medicare law will cost no more than $400 billion over 10 years. Foster has said that former CMS Administrator Tom Scully told him not to release to Congress his cost estimates for the Medicare law and threatened to fire him if he released them. Scully has denied the allegations (California Healthline, 4/27). Last month, Thompson said that he planned to provide the documents requested by the House committee. However, former acting CMS Administrator Dennis Smith, in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) last Friday, wrote that HHS determined the 1928 law Democrats on the committee cited in their request -- which allows any seven members of the committee to demand information from the executive branch -- "gives you no right to these documents." Waxman said that a formal denial of the request would force Democrats on the committee to file a lawsuit. He added, "I can't see how they can justify (keeping the information secret) if they've turned it over to the Republicans." However, Thompson said, "We think we turned over the information that was necessary" (CongressDaily, 4/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.