Some Democrats were calling for an independent investigation after HHS' inspector general's office determined that former CMS Administrator Tom Scully did not break criminal law by pressuring a CMS official into withholding from congressional Democrats a cost estimate for the Medicare reform law. Those calling for an independent investigation included Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who said it was "regrettable" that the inspector general's office did not explore whether the White House was involved in the incident. Scully did not return telephone calls seeking comment. The inspector general's report was released Tuesday and drafted at the request of Congress. While it found that the CMS did not give Congress requested information, the office concluded that Scully did not violate criminal laws in threatening Chief Actuary Richard Foster with termination if Foster released the estimate. The CMS actuary "had no authority to disclose information independently to Congress," the report said. Modern Healthcare broke the story of the report in a News Alert yesterday.
HHS spokesman Bill Pierce said the report shows that Scully acted within his authority, while Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) called the report "a major embarrassment to Democrats because it exposes and rejects their partisan motives." The requested estimate was not up to date with the legislation, and "it would be irresponsible to provide cost estimates on policy provisions that were not part of a legislative proposal," Johnson said in a statement. At the time of the request, Foster's estimate of the reform law's cost far exceeded the price tag being put forth by the Bush administration. After the law passed, the White House released a new, higher cost estimate. -- by Mark Taylor