Waxman protests 'partisan' GOP oversight of health law

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Under Bush, the Health and Human Services Department spent more than $70 million on public-relations campaigns for Medicare — including $600,000 for a blimp that flew over football stadiums and auto races, according to Waxman's letter to Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

The Bush administration also spent heavily to promote Medicare's prescription-drug benefit after it passed in 2006.

"Despite the fact that the Bush Administration spent vastly more taxpayer funds on public relations than the amount for which you are now criticizing the Obama Administration, I am not aware of you criticizing, or asking for oversight of these actions," Waxman wrote to Upton. "To the best of my recollection, you also remained silent when GAO found that the Bush Administration violated the prohibition on using funds for covert propaganda in promoting Medicare Part D."

The Obama administration has signed two contracts with public-relations firms to promote the healthcare law. One was to raise awareness of new coverage for preventive benefits; the other will promote the federally run insurance exchange. States, including California, have also signed advertising firms to promote their exchanges.

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