HHS' inspector general's office has launched an inquiry to determine if members of the Bush administration deliberately withheld information from Congress on the projected cost of last year's Medicare reform law. The controversy made headlines last week when CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster told news organizations he was threatened with the loss of his job if he disclosed to Congress his cost estimate. When the reform measure was signed into law, its publicly disclosed estimated price tag was $395 billion over 10 years. Subsequently, the administration released a higher estimate -- $534 billion over the same period. Foster had calculated a much higher estimate as well, closer to the $534 billion price tag. Foster has said he completed his calculations before Congress passed the reform bill but was pressured to not reveal his estimate by former CMS Administrator Tom Scully. The inquiry by the inspector general's office -- "to determine appropriate action" -- stems from a request by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, as well as congressional concerns, a spokesman for the office said. He declined to provide further details. In an interview with Modern Healthcare last week, Scully called the allegation that he threatened Foster's job "garbage." -- by Jeff Tieman
HHS to probe allegations regarding cost estimates
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