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Long IslandPolitics

Medicare expert questions Obama plan promises

WASHINGTON - Two of the central promises of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare's independent economic expert told Congress Wednesday.

The landmark legislation probably won't hold costs down, and it won't let everybody keep their current insurance if they like it, chief actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office prepares independent long-range cost estimates.

Foster's assessment came a day after Obama in his State of the Union message said he's open to improvements in the law, but unwilling to rehash the debate of the past two years. Republicans want to repeal the legislation that provides coverage to more than 30 million now uninsured, but lack the votes.

Foster was asked by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) for a simple true or false response on two of the main assertions made by supporters of the law: that it will bring down unsustainable medical costs and will let people keep their current health insurance if they like it.

On the costs issue, "I would say false, more so than true," Foster responded. As for people getting to keep their coverage, "not true in all cases."

Foster was a thorn in the side of the administration throughout the health care debate. He was also a bane to the Bush administration during the debate that led to creation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003. Obama White House officials dispute his analysis.

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