Let’s see now. First the Bush assministration lied to Congress about the cost of Chimpy’s Medicare drug bill. Then when the GOP leadership in the House realized they still did not have enough votes to pass the bill they held the vote up way beyond the standards of the body while Tom DeLay personally threatened and bribed reluctant Republicans until they had a thin majority to pass the bill.
Now we learn that the true costs of the bill will be $320 billion more than originally reported to Congress and $220 billion more than the figure illegally withheld.
Can you say Chimpeachment?
The Bush administration offered a new estimate of the cost of the Medicare drug benefit on Tuesday, saying it would cost $720 billion in the next 10 years.
That is much more than the $400 billion Congress assumed when it passed legislation creating the benefit in late 2003.
But administration officials said the numbers were not comparable. The original estimate was for the years 2004 to 2013. The new estimate covers the period from 2006, when the drug benefit becomes available, to 2015.
The higher figure, which provides the first glimpse of the true cost of the drug benefit, could touch off a political uproar in Congress, where conservative Republicans were already expressing alarm about the costs of Medicare, including the drug benefit.
[Representative Rahm] Emanuel said: “The new cost estimate destroys the credibility of the Bush administration. Officials were so far off in estimating the cost of the Medicare law. Why should we believe what they say about the financial problems of Social Security?”
Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: “I told you so. We can’t trust numbers provided by administration officials. They’ll say anything to get a bill passed. And if the new drug benefit costs more, the extra money goes to their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, not to senior citizens.”
When the Medicare bill was passed, the Congressional Budget Office said the cost would not exceed $400 billion over 10 years. In a letter to The New York Times published on Nov. 20, 2003, Thomas A. Scully, who was then the Medicare administrator, wrote, “We are spending $400 billion.”
Just two months later, in January 2004, the White House said the cost, for the same 10-year period, would be $534 billion.
Assumptions about the cost of the Medicare drug benefit were included in the budget that Mr. Bush unveiled on Monday. A table in one volume of the budget, titled “Analytical Perspectives,” shows the drug benefit as costing $345 billion from 2005 to 2010.
Lawmakers said they were shocked to see that number because it was close to the $400 billion figure they had previously been given as the price tag for a full decade. Estimates prepared by the chief Medicare actuary show that the spending for the prescription drug benefit will total $1.2 trillion from 2006 to 2015, before taking account of income that will offset some of that cost.
Dr. McClellan tried to reconcile the numbers on Tuesday night. He said the $345 billion figure and the $1.2 trillion showed “gross costs” and did not reflect the premiums that would be paid by Medicare beneficiaries, compulsory contributions by states or savings to Medicaid that would result from the new law.
Several members of Congress cited the latest cost estimates as a reason Medicare should not pay for Viagra and other “lifestyle drugs.” Medicare officials said last week that the new benefit would pay for Viagra, Levitra and similar drugs when they were needed to treat erectile dysfunction.