Seniors who are on Medicare are finding that more of their doctors are opting out of this government health insurance program. But, currently, if they choose to purchase another health insurance plan, or pay out of pocket to see a doctor, seniors must forfeit not only their present Social Security benefits, but also all prior Social Security benefits they have received as well. While we have been understandably focused on the intrusion of Obamacare in our lives, a lesser known federal health mandate, which has linked together Medicare and Social Security, is intruding upon the privacy and healthcare freedom of seniors.
Fortunately, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and some other Republican senators have introduced a new bill entitled the Retirement Freedom Act (RFA), which hopes to allow individuals to opt out of Medicare Part A without forfeiting Social Security benefits. In addition, the RFA is expected to bring an estimated immediate savings of $1.5 billion of taxpayer funds, even if only 1 percent of eligible seniors opt out of Medicare Part A in favor of private health care insurance.
Medicare and Social Security first became linked together in 1993, when a Clinton administration program rule, i.e. government bureaucrats, unnecessarily tied these two government programs together without review by the elected representatives of the American people. However, in 2008, a lawsuit, entitled Hall v. Sebelius, filed by several seniors, challenged the Clinton-era rule. The seniors, who had all contributed to Medicare and Social Security throughout their employment histories, argued that the applications for Medicare and Social Security benefits are voluntary and not dependent on each other, and that forced participation in Medicare violates the right to privacy. They concluded that they should be able to opt out of Medicare, as their health insurance plan, without forfeiting their Social Security benefits.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this lawsuit is that U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, former general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, who heard the case, had sided with the plaintiffs throughout much of its duration, ruling 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.” At one point, Judge Collyer even refused the Obama administration’s request for dismissal of the case.
Nevertheless, in a stunning reversal, in late March of this year, the judge wrote 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.”
Essentially, Judge Collyer ruled that an “entitlement” is “mandatory.” It’s not hard to see that the main concepts of this case are but a heartbeat away from Obamacare, which, essentially, will be Medicare for everyone if it is allowed to reach its final destination.
By introducing the Retirement Freedom Act, Sen. DeMint and the other Senate Republicans are not only underscoring the importance of healthcare freedom for seniors, but they are also modeling a parallel course for the repeal of Obamacare as well. If Americans “opt out” of government entitlement programs, federal spending will clearly be cut. And while it may be worthwhile to argue the constitutionality of government healthcare in the judiciary, ultimately, Americans should want their elected officials, not judges, to remove the barriers to their personal freedom.