The model for lowballing the cost of a health care program to get it through Congress was none other than LBJ. He did it to pass Medicare. It's a tactic that President Obama learned well. Without it, no ObamaCare. NPR recalled the LBJ story last year as the health care fight heated up.

[NPR-Montagne]: There are tapes of Johnson showing a different side of how he worked [Medicare’s passage].

[James Morone, co-author of The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office]:Johnson maneuvered every step of the way getting this bill through Congress, and one of the things he did — and this is a little dicey in today’s climate — was suppress the costs. So this young kid gets elected from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, in 1962, and Johnson is explaining to him [over the phone] how you get a health bill through. And what he tells him is don’t let them get the costs projected too far out because it will scare other people:

“A health program yesterday runs $300 million, but the fools had to go to projecting it down the road five or six years, and when you project it the first year, it runs $900 million. Now I don’t know whether I would approve $900 million second year or not. I might approve 450 or 500. But the first thing Dick Russell comes running in saying, ‘My God, you’ve got a billion-dollar program for next year on health, therefore I’m against any of it now.’ Do you follow me?”

[JM]: We believe, after looking at the evidence, my co-author [David Blumenthal] and I, that if the true cost of Medicare had been known — if Johnson hadn’t basically hidden them — the program would never have passed. America’s second-most beloved program would never have happened, if we had had genuine cost estimates…

Read the whole thing here.

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