Healthcare reform hypocrisy goes supernova

The Bush appointee who hid Medicare Part D's true costs from Congress tells us why reform now is too expensive

Published March 17, 2010 5:11PM (EDT)

The Washington Post appears determined to give the Wall Street Journal a run for its money in the competition for most whacked-out editorial page. The latest evidence: Tom Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from 2001 to 2004, arguing yesterday that Obama's healthcare reform is too expensive:

If we want health coverage for all Americans, it has to be paid for.... This year's $1.6 trillion deficit is approaching 11 percent of GDP. That's unsustainable. We can't expand health subsidies until we get the deficit under control.

Bruce Bartlett, unlimbering the heavy artillery for a broadside exceptional in its hostility, even for him:

Scully is a rank Republican political hack who was responsible for one of the most reprehensible episodes in recent American political history. It was Scully who helped ram through Congress the totally unfunded Medicare Part D program that will cost taxpayers roughly $1 trillion over the next decade -- that's $1 trillion more than Obama's plan, which is fully paid for according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Scully was in fact critical to getting part D enacted because he personally hid from Congress critical details about its cost that would have torpedoed the legislation had those facts been known prior to the congressional vote in 2003.

Part D: completely unfunded. Current healthcare reform package: Deficit-neutral according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO may end up being wrong, but at least the Democrats are making an effort to pay for their plan, in contrast to the Republicans.

Bartlett then reprints in the same post a Forbes column from last November which I had previously missed, laying out the whole sorry story of Medicare Part D in great detail. It's well worth a read, if for some reason your perusal of the news today has left you insufficiently boiling over with inarticulate rage.

Sadly, charges of hypocrisy seems to lack any heft at all in the current political climate, but when you combine the saga of Medicare Part D with the GOP's willingness, when it held power, to use exactly the same legislative maneuvers that is currently expressing such horror of, it's a wonder that the entire Republican Party doesn't just implode from the sheer weight of its crushing self-contradictions. Even arch-right-wing think tank fellows can't stand it any more!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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