WASHINGTON -- Eighteen Democratic senators asked the General Accounting Office yesterday to investigate the Bush administration for keeping estimates of the cost of Medicare legislation from Congress.
The Health and Human Services Department inspector general already is investigating the matter, at the prompting of House Democrats and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who said the inquiry is needed to remove "a cloud over this department."
As Democrats mount election-year attacks on the new prescription drug law, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and his colleagues said GAO should examine whether the administration violated a law shielding federal employees from political pressure. GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.
Thompson has denied playing any role in preventing Richard Foster, the Medicare actuary, from sharing his higher estimates of the legislation's cost with Congress.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Medicare program to offer cards with discounts on prescription drugs won't begin until May, but 11 states already have seen cases in which con artists are targeting Medicare beneficiaries, officials said yesterday.
Scams so far have involved phone calls or door-to-door solicitations to ostensibly register people for the new program. Those behind the scams offer to enroll seniors in exchange for their bank information, Social Security number, or credit card number. In other instances, the caller already has some of the individual's private health history and tries to collect their banking or Medicare information, which could then be used to file false claims.