Throughout the health care debate, the GOP saw conspiracy in every single legislative step and maneuver. Republicans claimed that Democrats were giving out judgeships, extra funding for hospitals and the Medicaid program, positions in the administration and threatening to close down Air Force bases to secure the votes of wavering members. They insisted that the Democrats were writing a secret bill behind closed doors and spread all kinds of rumors about death panels, government rationing and the horrors of British-like single-payer health care.
Now, the conservative American Spectator is claiming that the administration purposely delayed the release of a recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) report — which found that national expenditures would increase by 0.9% under health reform — until after a key Congressional vote on health reform. The Spectator’s HHS source told the magazine that Secretary’s office received a copy of the report “more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill” and quotes him as saying, “[t]he reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote.” “[T]here were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted to the secretary’s office. Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report,” the source said.
But as NBC’s First Read found out, there isn’t any truth to this conspiracy either:
1. The Office of the Actuary didn’t receive the language of the reconciliation bill until March 18 (when the legislation was posted), so the Spectator’s assertion that HHS had a copy of the Actuary’s score a week before congressional passage — on March 22 — doesn’t make sense.
2. Past scores from the Office of the Actuary came out AFTER passage of the legislation. For the House bill that passed on Nov. 7, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Nov. 13. And for the Senate bill that passed on Dec. 24, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Jan. 8, 2010. This most recent Actuary report is dated April 22.
3. Given points #1 and #2, it’s hard to see how the Actuary’s score was available before the CBO’s, which came out on March 18.
Indeed, point 3 is particularly convincing since CMS references the CBO analysis in its report and relies on the study to reach certain conclusions. It’s also difficult to imagine that the CMS report would have swayed too many votes. Lawmakers were familiar with CMS’s conservative methodology because the office had already released two other reports, all which assumed an increase in national spending; this latest report, in fact, is almost a copy/paste of the CMS’ previous conclusions.
For the record, the Chief Medicare Actuary, Richard Foster, has described the Spectator’s story as “completely inaccurate,” but Republicans still aren’t convinced. They are calling on Democrats to hold a hearing about the analysis.