Several Lawmakers Ask Bush Administration for Information on White House Cost Estimate for New Medicare Law
Several members of the House Government Reform Committee on Tuesday "demanded" that the Bush administration provide information on its cost estimates for the Medicare law, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 3/2). The Office of Management and Budget has estimated that the new law would cost $534 billion over 10 years, $134 billion more than estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (California Healthline, 3/1). In a letter, 18 Democrats and one independent on the committee asked that President Bush submit by March 15 all estimates prepared by the Medicare actuary's office since Jan. 1, 2003 (CongressDaily, 3/2). They said that federal law requires HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to provide data when at least seven members of the committee request it (Washington Post, 3/3). They also said that three of the lawmakers -- Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) -- made a similar request in February but received no response. "It would be a serious matter if these officials knew about the higher cost estimate but withheld it from key members of Congress and the public," the letter states (CongressDaily, 3/2).
Wall Street Journal columnist John Harwood on Wednesday examined the "Medicare problem" facing the Bush administration. Although Bush expected a political victory from enactment of the law, he is "facing flak from two directions": conservative Republicans, who dislike that the legislation expands an entitlement program without implementing "market-oriented" reforms, and some Democrats, who believe the law does not go far enough and caters to "Bush-friendly 'special interests,'" Harwood writes. At the same time, many seniors have expressed confusion and criticism about the legislation, Harwood says. The Bush administration is hoping to gain support for the new law with a $10 million ad campaign, and Bush is hoping for a "political second wind" when a prescription drug discount card program begins in June, according to Harwood. Although Medicare will not be the "dominant issue" in this fall's elections, in a "close election, everything counts," Harwood concludes (Harwood, Wall Street Journal, 3/3).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.