Lawmakers File Suit to Get Medicare Law's Real Cost Figures

Nineteen Democratic members of the House Committee on Government Reform have filed a lawsuit in federal court to force Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to release Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster's cost estimates for the new Medicare law.

Foster has said he was forbidden by the Bush administration from revealing the true costs of the Medicare law until after Congress had voted on it. The Medicare law is now projected to cost $534 billion over the next 10 years -- $134 billion more than was estimated when Congress was debating the legislation last fall. Foster has said that the higher cost projection was known before the final House and Senate votes but administration officials told him "we can't let that get out," and Foster believed he might lose his job if he revealed his cost estimates.

HHS Secretary Thompson is still refusing to release Foster's cost estimates, even though the Medicare bill was passed and was signed into law.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Thompson violated congressional mandates by refusing Democratic lawmakers' requests to provide information. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said in a statement, "HHS should have released these estimates during congressional consideration of the Medicare bill so that they could have informed the debate. The administration had no valid reason to withhold the cost estimates then, and it has no reason to withhold them now."

For an article on the suit in the Philadelphia Inquirer, click here. (Free registration required and article may no longer be available.)