IG: Medicare officials withheld costs but didn't break law

Medicare officials withheld information requested by members of Congress about the cost of the Medicare prescription drug bill and threatened to fire the chief Medicare actuary if he disclosed those figures, according to an internal Health and Human Services Department probe, but the investigation determined Medicare officials broke no laws.

The report by the HHS inspector general is the latest chapter in an ongoing controversy over the Medicare bill and the tactics the administration used to build support for it in Congress. The issue came to a boil when the administration revealed its $535 billion estimate of the bill only after Congress -- whose own number-crunchers estimated it would cost $385 billion -- passed it narrowly last year.

The report concluded Thomas Scully, then-administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, threatened to fire chief CMS actuary Richard Foster if he shared cost estimates for the Medicare bill with members of Congress. But Scully or other officials did not break any laws in doing so, the report found.

"The administrator of CMS has the final authority to determine the flow of information to Congress," the report stated. And since Scully has left the administration, no further action is needed, the report concluded.

Democrats greeted the report with outrage, claiming the administration could not fairly investigate the politicized issue. "It sounds as though the Bush administration examined itself and found it did nothing wrong," said House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee ranking member Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., called the report "a major embarrassment to Democrats because it exposes and rejects their partisan motives."

The report cited six separate requests by members of Congress or their staffs that Medicare officials did not meet. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 requires congressional access to Medicare's actuarial staff, a provision Republicans included to gain better access to the actuary's data. But the inspector general report stated HHS officials have the right to ban their employees from divulging information to lawmakers, citing a Justice Department opinion on the matter.

That conclusion refutes a Congressional Research Service memo issued in April, contending Scully likely broke the law in blocking Foster from sharing information with Congress. The matter also is being investigated by GAO.

Johnson noted the CRS report was written before either of the two Ways and Means Committee hearings held on the issue.

The IG report stated it took "no policy position on withholding information from Congress or on the importance of any information that may have been withheld."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.