GAO: drug commercials are illegal

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

WASHINGTON - The General Accounting Office slammed the Medicare Modernization Act last week when it ruled CMS illegally used taxpayer money to make videos promoting the new law. The GAO called the advertisements “covert propaganda.”

The videos, which were aired on at least 40 stations in 33 markets, were “not strictly factual news stories” and were flawed by “notable omissions and weaknesses” in their explanation of the law, stated the GAO. A further concern was that the government was never identified as the source of the information.

The GAO decision has further fueled political debate over the already divisive Medicare law. But Seth Johnson, director of government affairs at Pride Mobility Products, said the controversy is not likely to lead to any changes in the law.

“It’s something Democrats will hold a press conference on, but in the end I don’t think it is going to have any impact as far as forcing changes to the Medicare bill,” he said. “[AAHomecare is] really looking for something that we can put legislative language on that we know is going to move [in Congress].”

This is the second decision placing blame on CMS for how the Medicare Modernization Act has been handled. In May, the Congressional Research Service said the Bush administration apparently broke the law by not disclosing information on the cost analysis of the bill prior to its passing.