Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Did you know? Government already coerces your health care choice

I guess I wasn't aware of this fact until reading this article in the Wall Street Journal:

"A centerpiece of the debate over ObamaCare is government coercion and the right to choose a health-care plan. So it's worth watching a lawsuit now making its way through the federal courts that seeks to let seniors keep their Social Security benefits even if they reject Medicare. This could be a big deal."

That's right. If you want to collect your Social Security, you MUST enroll in Medicare, even if you don't want it or need it. If you've got a great health plan already and decide to 'opt out' of Medicare, the government will deny you the ability to collect your Social Security.

Seems contrary to everything we know and the rhetoric we're hearing in today's health coverage debates, doesn't it? Especially since the two are completely different programs, each funded by the individual through different taxes.

But there is some logic and reason making its way through this situation:

POMS were imposed in 1993 during the Clinton Administration and set forth rules that aren't in the statute or regulations governing Medicare. The three plaintiffs—Brian Hall, John Kraus and former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Armey—all had health-care plans they preferred to the coverage they were compelled to receive through Medicare.

In her ruling this week, the judge said 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." Article I of the Constitution gives Congress sole power to legislate—so when agency rules conflict with federal statute, the statute takes precedence.

The Obama administration opposed the suit saying that the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted their administrative remedies for challenging these agency rules. But the judge disagreed:

Judge Collyer rejected that notion, noting that one plaintiff had sought an administrative hearing but "received no response from the SSA for approximately three years." Exhaustion of remedies was therefore "futile." A three-year wait is precisely the kind of bureaucratic hassle, or deliberate stonewalling, that government is famous for.

The article continues with what appears to be just common sense - but also points out the contradiction when it comes to the actions in this situation versus the words coming out of politicians' mouths:

Keep in mind that the plaintiffs are merely asking for the freedom to spend their own money for their own health insurance. With Medicare careening toward bankruptcy, letting seniors opt out could help save the taxpayers money. The plaintiffs argue, and reasonably so, that they have paid a lifetime of taxes into Social Security and shouldn't have those benefits denied merely because they are willing to pay for their own medical care. Social Security and Medicare are separate programs, and both are financed by separate payroll contributions.

The response of the Obama Administration to this lawsuit is revealing about its principles, as opposed to its rhetoric. President Obama says his plan for a "public option" wouldn't be coercive, saying that "If you like your health-care plan, you keep your health-care plan. Nobody is going to force you to leave your health-care plan." But here is a case where federal bureaucrats are using their power to force Medicare on seniors. Let's hope the courts restore a genuine right to choose.

We need to keep this situation in mind and remember the excesses of government when it comes to a so-called 'choice' of health coverage in the future. Despite their words, we have a present-day example that demonstrates the words cannot be trusted.


Tim Higgins said...


One has to wonder how any ruling on this will affect members of Congress, who retain in office past private sector retirement age. I would assume that most have filed for Social Security, though they would certainly be making too much money to collect. Will these legislators, who have the best health care that money can buy be forced to give it up and go on Medicare? Will they give up Social Security? Will they exempt themselves?

Maggie Thurber said...

Tim - like most states, I believe federal employees have their own pension systems and do not contribute to Social Security. Ohio has the PERS program which replaces SS...

I realize that some were employed prior to their election and would have contributed to SS for that time frame, but many have never participated in the SS system...

As a result, I don't believe they care...which is part of the problem!

Tim Higgins said...


Forgive my lapse in thinking. Of course our legislators would have protected themselves before creating such an abomination. Surely in the cases of these "professional politicians" that is what serving the public is all about.

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