Suppose you are a senior who chooses a private health insurance plan or natural methods of treating illness. You should be able to forgo Medicare and pay for your own treatment, shouldn’t you? Not unless you’re prepared to give up your Social Security benefits as well, the federal government says.
With ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) a central focus of Mitt Romney’s discussion during the first presidential debate, the issue of health care freedom takes on an even deeper intensity when we consider the Medicare Lawsuit, a case that has been proceeding for four years now and may end up at the Supreme Court this year.
The case is called Hall v. Sebelius, and it seeks to “disconnect” Medicare from Social Security benefits. The two programs became unnecessarily linked together by unelected bureaucrats in 1993, during the Clinton administration, leaving a rule that states that seniors cannot opt out of Medicare without forfeiting their Social Security benefits.
In 2008, a group of seniors who had all contributed to Medicare and Social Security throughout their employment histories, but wished to purchase private health insurance once they reached age 65, argued that the applications for Medicare and Social Security are voluntary and independent of each other. They asserted that they should be able to opt out of Medicare without forfeiting their Social Security benefits, and that forced participation in Medicare violates the right to privacy.
The case hit its most stunning obstacle in March of 2011, when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, former general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, who initially sided with the plaintiffs, suddenly reversed herself, ruling in favor of the Obama administration instead.
In her earlier ruling, Judge Collyer wrote that, “neither the statute nor the regulation specifies that Plaintiffs must withdraw from Social Security and repay retirement benefits in order to withdraw from Medicare.” However, in her shocking reversal decision, the judge ruled that “requiring a mechanism for plaintiffs and others in their situation to ‘dis-enroll’ would be contrary to congressional intent, which was to provide ‘mandatory’ benefits under Medicare Part A and for those receiving Social Security Retirement benefits.”
Since this ruling, which essentially decided that an entitlement is “mandatory,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced, albeit into a Democratic-controlled Senate, the Retirement Freedom Act (RFA), a bill that would allow Medicare and Social Security to be “disconnected,” so that Americans would be free to opt out of Medicare but still retain their Social Security benefits.
Most recently, the Cato Institute and the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) have joined the case last month and submitted Amicus briefs. On September 19th, the Supreme Court granted the Department of Justice a one-month extension to October 29th to file its response to the petition of the plaintiffs.
Although most American seniors do not seek to forgo Medicare benefits, there are two essential points that this case brings to light. First, a group of unelected bureaucrats should not be responsible for making healthcare or financial decisions for American citizens. Congress should take up Sen. DeMint’s bill and vote to give Americans back the freedom they should never have lost to government overreach.
Second, if ObamaCare is not repealed, the IPAB makes the central issue of Hall v. Sebelius important for every American senior. When that group of unelected bureaucrats informs physicians that certain patients are “too old” or “too sickly already” to be worthy of spending federal money on medical treatments, seniors who would opt to pay for the treatments themselves, or use a private healthcare plan to do so, would be required to give up not only their current Social Security benefits but to repay the federal government all past benefits received from that program as well.
Both ObamaCare’s IPAB and the Medicare Lawsuit issues present the stark realization that seniors are fast becoming the most enslaved sector in America.