Groups Decry Taxpayer-Funded Bush Ad on Medicare Law

The Alliance for Retired Americans is calling on the Republican National Committee to reimburse American taxpayers the $12.6 million of public money the Bush administration is spending to finance a media campaign that promotes the new Medicare prescription drug law, charging the advertisements are blatantly political and don't provide a public service.

Another group, the National Taxpayers Union, asked the Bush administration to stop the ad campaign, calling it a "political and fiscal insult to taxpayers."

The Bush administration has launched a $9.5 million television advertising campaign to rebut criticism of the new Medicare law. The 30-second ad addresses some of the major criticism of the law, including charges that it will force seniors out of traditional Medicare and into managed care plans and that savings from the law's prescription drug coverage will be insignificant.

The ad is to run on network and cable television through March. Its theme is "Same Medicare. More Benefits." The administration is spending another $3.1 million for a newspaper, radio and Internet effort in both English and Spanish.

"The president and Karl Rove know they created a prescription drug law that seniors simply don't accept," said Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Ed Coyle, whose nationwide grassroots organization represents more than 3 million seniors and campaigned against passage of the Medicare bill, "so the White House decided to fight back using tax dollars to fund a partisan propaganda campaign."

"This misinformation campaign amounts to nothing more than an in-kind political contribution by the Department of Health and Human Services to the Committee to re-elect President Bush and should be paid for with campaign money and not with hard-earned taxpayer dollars. This campaign is a public disservice and shouldn't be construed as helping educate seniors."

National Taxpayers Union President John Berthoud said that "forcing Americans to pay millions for hyping a program that will eventually cost them trillions is truly a two-handed slap at taxpayers." The National Taxpayer's Union is a citizen group that works for lower taxes, less wasteful spending, and accountable government.

The General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress' investigative arm, is now examining whether the administration should be using taxpayer money to air the commercial.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, recently concluded that despite the new drug benefit, most Medicare beneficiaries will face higher out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs after full implementation of the Medicare law. Gail Shearer, the organization's Health Policy Director, found that 'the benefit design, and the assumption of continued growth in expenditures combine so that people at most expenditure levels actually face out-of-pocket expenditures in 2007 (when they would have coverage) greater than their out-of-pocket expenditures in 2003 (when they have no drug coverage).'