Today, during a campaign stop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reiterated his praise for former Wisconsin governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson:
I would also like to mention one, who is here, who has been a great governor here in the state of Wisconsin, the smartest guy on health care, one of the great friends we all have in America, Governor Tommy Thompson.
Thompson’s intelligence not withstanding, his record on health care leaves much to be desired. During his four year tenure as President Bush’s point man at the HHS, the number of uninsured increased from 41.2 million to 46.6 million, Thompson pushed through a lobbyist-written prescription drug bill, helped misrepresent the legislation’s true cost, proposed a radical restructuring of the Medicaid program, and “improperly altered a report documenting large racial and ethnic disparities in health care”:
- Shoved Through Industry-Friendly Medicare Part D: Thompson was instrumental in ramming through the industry-friendly Medicare Prescription Drug bill, going so far as to strong-arm retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI), allegedly offering the congressman a “$100,000 bribe to vote for” the bill. The legislation “bars Medicare from negotiating prices directly with drug makers” for the medicines it buys and has proven “to be a financial windfall [for big drug companies], larger than even the most optimistic Wall Street analysts had predicted.”
- Misrepresented Cost Of Medicare Part D: After the bill passed, the Bush administration “announced the program would actually cost $534 billion to implement, nearly 40 percent more” than Thompson and other administration officials advertised. “In March 2004, Richard Foster, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “revealed he had been threatened by the Bush administration that he would be fired if he told Congress the true cost of the policy.”
- Proposed Poor Block Grants To States: Thompson’s proposed radical restructuring of the Medicaid program would have taken “advantage of the states’ dire fiscal situation and their real need for federal aid to further the Administration’s goal of undermining the Medicaid entitlement.” The proposal increased “the pressure for states to reduce coverage for low-income people” and would have eliminated “the Medicaid entitlement for the nearly 12 million ‘optional’ beneficiaries, including 100 percent of children enrolled in SCHIP, 56 percent of seniors, 22 percent of people with disabilities, 43 percent of parents, and 20 percent of children enrolled in Medicaid.”
- Censored Racial Disparities Report: In 2004, Thompson admitted that his department succumbed to political pressure and submerged evidence of “profound” ethnic and racial disparities in health care in order to accommodate President Bush’s proposed cuts to programs “that recruits blacks and Hispanics for careers as doctors, nurses and pharmacists.”