How the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Became Law


july 12, 2001: President Bush lays out plans for Medicare prescription drug benefit.

june 20, 2003: Medicare actuary Richard Foster is warned not to disclose to Congress his estimate of the proposal’s true cost. “The consequences for insubordination are extremely severe,” Foster is told.

june 27, 2003: Senate and House approve different versions of the drug bill. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., one of the legislation’s principal authors, describes it as “a shot of legislative botox [that] will rejuvenate an antiquated program by eliminating the age-old lines of a different era.”

july 15, 2003: Conference committee of 5 Democrats and 12 Republicans begins work to reconcile the two versions of the bill.

nov 13, 2003: President Bush calls on Congress to “finish the job.”

nov 17, 2003: aarp endorses bill, launches $7 million ad campaign.

nov 21, 2003: Bush calls wavering Republicans from Air Force One.

nov 22, 2003:
3:01am3:01 a.m. House begins voting on unified bill; roll call to last 15 minutes.
3:30am3:30 a.m. With bill losing 212-to-214, Speaker Dennis Hastert keeps voting open.
4:15am4:15 a.m. Bush calls several lawmakers, pleading for votes.
4:20am4:20 a.m. Hastert and hhs Secretary Tommy Thompson, who have been scurrying around House floor rounding up votes, corral Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich.; he’ll later say (and then recant claim) that they offered donations and endorsements for his son’s congressional campaign in return for a vote.
5:53am5:53 a.m. After longest roll call in House history, bill is approved 220-to-215.

dec 16, 2003: Thomas Scully resigns as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, joins Alston & Bird, where he will lobby for drug companies.

march 5, 2004: Patrick Morrisey, who as chief health counsel of the House energy and commerce committee was a principal staff author of the bill, takes job as lobbyist for drugmakers. In all, 15 members of Congress, staffers, and officials who worked on the drug bill will go to work for industry.

sept 30, 2004: Following an investigation of Rep. Smith’s bribery allegations, House ethics committee admonishes three representatives, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Smith himself, for “making public statements that risked impugning the reputation of the House.”

dec 15, 2004: Rep. Tauzin named president of drug lobby group PhRMA; annual pay reported at $2 million.



We believe that journalism needs to stand for something right now. That the press is the enemy of secrecy and corruption. That reporting without a sense of right and wrong only helps liars and propagandists succeed. And that we're in this fight for the long haul.

So we're hoping to raise $30,000 in new monthly donations this fall. Read our argument for journalism that is fair and accurate and stands for something—and join us with a tax-deductible monthly donation (or make a one-time gift) if you agree.