March 18th, 2004

evil evil evil

Somehow I missed these over the last few days. Thank goodness for the Daily Show, which is, as usual, my most reliable source of news.

Bush administration creates Medicare ads that look like news reports, complete with fake reporter:

Karen Ryan isn't a reporter. But she plays one on TV.

That's troublesome to stations like WTVQ in Lexington, Ky., which ran a report on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit that concluded with the voice-over, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

The problem is that Ryan was reading the script of a so-called video news release, a sales pitch packaged as a ready-to-run TV news segment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracted a public relations firm to produce the video news release, or VNR.

The administration pressured a staffer not to release estimates of the true cost of the Medicare bill:

Rick Foster, chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has said that then-[Department of Health and Human Services] chief Thomas Scully threatened his job if he answered questions from congressional Democrats about the cost of the bill before a series of key votes last summer.

"Tom Scully sent an e-mail directing that we not respond to these requests and warning that the consequences of insubordination were extremely severe," Foster said. "I took that to mean that if I sent the responses, they would go ahead and fire me."