Friday, March 12, 2004

You Never Reach The Bottom

Last December, when the Bush Administration pushed through its Medicare prescription drug plan, I made a couple of posts about its huge gaps in coverage. At the time, I assumed that the worst components - such as the part that prohibits Medicaid from covering prescriptions not paid for by Medicare, thus actually reducing benefits for the poorest seniors - were never intended to be implemented. Even in this era of Republican domination, they're simply not politically acceptable. I figured that they were in there to drive the projected cost of the bill down, and that eventually there would be "adjustments" - just as the economic impact of the Bush tax cuts was hidden by the various sunset provisions, which were never intended to stand.

So while I was crediting the Bush Administration with this fiendishly clever plan, it turns out that they were also just flat-out lying about the costs of the bill.
The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.

When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.
You never reach the bottom of what these guys are willing to do. No matter how much you suspect them, it's always just a little bit worse than you thought. I wonder what effect this revelation will have on that famed Republican Party loyalty. This time they lied to their own guys.