WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- House Democrats Friday asked for an investigation to determine if the top Medicare expert was told to hide the true cost of the new Medicare law.
In a letter, the lawmakers asked the inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services to find out if Richard S. Foster, chief actuary with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was threatened with dismissal if he revealed the true cost of the new law to key lawmakers.
"Throughout the debate on the Medicare bill, the legislation's cost was a central issue for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle," the letter said. "The withholding of cost information may have impeded lawmakers' ability to engage in fair debate on the bill."
Foster says he was warned he would be fired if he disclosed higher prescription drug price estimates.
When the House passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the reported estimated cost of the Medicare benefit was $395 billion in the first 10 years. Several Republicans had said they would not support the measure if the costs went above $400 billion.
But, five months before the November House vote, Foster had estimated a similar plan the Senate was considering would cost $551 billion. He said was told to keep quiet about it, the Knight-Ridder Newspapers reported.
Two months after Congress approved the new benefit, White House budget director Joshua Bolten disclosed he expected the measure to cost $534 billion.