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Bush Medicare administrator to leave job

WASHINGTON -- Thomas Scully, the Bush administration official deeply involved in drafting the Medicare bill, said yesterday he will resign once President Bush signs the Medicare overhaul into law.

Scully said he probably will take a job at one of five law or investment firms that want him to advise clients affected by the sweeping Medicare legislation.

White House officials said President Bush will sign the bill Monday, giving seniors a prescription drug benefit beginning in 2006 and private insurers a new, larger role to play in health care for 40 million older and disabled Americans.

Scully said he will step down Dec. 15 as administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, oversees the health insurance programs for the elderly, disabled, and poor.

"I'm thrilled I stuck around to see it through. It's done," Scully said in an interview.

Scully, 46, who has run the Medicare and Medicaid programs for nearly three years, has often expressed a desire to spend more time with his three young children and earn more money.

Democrats who are critics of the legislation, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, declined comment.

But several other bill opponents said Scully's talks with potential employers during consideration of the legislation reinforced a perception that the administration favors insurers and drug companies over seniors.

"Seniors have a right to know why a White House bill that forks over billions to the HMOs and drug industries was written by a person who was apparently pursuing employment with those same industries," said David Sirota, spokesman for the Center for American Progress, which is run by former Clinton administration officials.

Scully said the firms have been courting him for months. He said he received clearance from the top ethics official at Health and Human Services to work on the legislation.

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