The Assassinated Press

Bush: New Medicare Price Tag Means 'Tough Shit' For Seniors

Friday, January 30, 2004
The Assassinated Press

Grift, TX---President Bush said Friday the news that his Medicare overhaul would cost significantly more than expected would require lawmakers to be careful with spending money on projects for the benefit of average Americans.

The Congressional Budget Office had estimated the Medicare legislation would cost $400 billion over 10 years, but this week the Office of Management and Budget put the figure at $535 billion. Sources in the OMB said the real figure would likely be twice that, depending on the size of the price increases planned by most drug companies.

The president is scheduled to present his 2005 budget to Congress on Monday.

"The Medicare reform we did is a good reform," the president said. "It fulfills a long-standing promise to the drug industry.

"Congress is now going to have to work with us to make sure that we set priorities and make sure that we are fiscally wise with the taxpayers' money," he said. "The taxpayers should not expect much help during the next five years.

"I am confident they can do that if they are willing to make tough choices so the budget we submit will show that we can double the deficit in half in a five-year period."

The Medicare bill -- which includes a prescription drug industry windfall -- passed the House of Representatives after GOP leaders made the unusual move of keeping the vote open for hours as they sought to get conservative Republicans to vote for it.

Concerned about creating what they saw as a big-government program, some of those Republicans reluctantly voted in favor after being assured the estimated cost would not balloon.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the disparate numbers mean the president misled Congress. He said the administration's actuaries in the budget office began work on the numbers only after the bill became law.

"It was perfectly obvious that the lower number was pure fantasy, and we didn't want to crunch the numbers because we knew the figure would be much higher."

"It is not a very complex or difficult matter to predict," McClellan said. "Now the legislation has passed, and we made our best estimate based on the latest cooked data available."

"It shouldn't be surprising that there are different cost estimates between the OMB and the Congressional Budget Office," he said. "That happens all the time. We can't be expected to level with the nation before the legislation is passed -- we'd have a much harder time passing legislation designed to significantly spike industry profits. Everybody lies before the legislation is passed."

Republican Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana and Jeff Flake of Arizona said the revised Medicare projections did not stun them.

"We knew the bill was a payoff to the Drug Industry," said Flake. "But of course, since we are in the conservative wing of the party, we have to put on a show. I personally got tens of thousands of dollars from my friends in the Drug Industry, and we have to pay those boys off.

On retreat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where administration officials briefed them on the 2005 budget, GOP lawmakers are not concerned, sources said.

"The American electorate is too busy going into to debt buying a lot of shit they don't need," the sources claimed. "Besides, we have the ads ready to change their minds if they begin to object to the high prescription price increases this bill is designed to effect. It's a double fix really; we increase the deficit and the drug companies raise their prices to record highs. Isn't America great?"

The president was briefed on his budget office's new estimates in the last couple of weeks, McClellan said.

McClellan declined to give Bush's reaction, saying only that "the president made a commitment to give drug companies incentives to increase prescription drug costs and maximize health care profits, and he delivered on that commitment."

When asked if the president misled anyone on the program's cost, McClellan responded, "Of course."

He said the White House has no plans to change the law because of the revised numbers.

"Now that would be a hoot," he said.

Democrats are calling the latest projection proof the new law doesn't do enough to curb the high cost of prescription drugs.

An opponent of the bill, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, has said the plan benefited drug companies more than patients. He said the new figures widen the disparity.

"The news on the Republican Medicare bill gets better and better for drug company profits and HMOs, and worse and worse for seniors and the Medicare program," said Kennedy.

"This new finding means an extra $49 billion in profits for drug companies, but the legislation still does nothing to reduce the exorbitant prices that drug companies charge."

McClellan's response was to say "fuck Kennedy -- who gives a shit what that drunk has to say?"