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It’s a Free Country, Isn’t It?

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

I thought America was a free country. Last week, Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that seniors have a legal obligation to accept government health benefits (Medicare Part A) or they will lose their Social Security benefits. What happened to freedom of choice?

What does Medicare Part A have to do with Social Security? Americans pay a separate payroll taxes for each. If Americans choose not to accept Medicare Part A, why should they lose their Social Security benefits?

Americans should have the freedom to choose to accept or reject an entitlement for which they paid. Americans who rejected Medicare Part A would not get their Medicare Part A prepayment back. .

Americans pay a separate tax for the Social Security retirement benefits. Why should the government be able to eliminate the Social Security benefit when someone gives up his Medicare benefit?

It looks like another one of President Obama trick plays. This judgment would help him in the implementation of his healthcare reform act. Obamacare’s goal is eliminate to Americans’ freedom of choice.

President Obama’s lawyers have not only tricked the American people by eliminating their freedom to choice, they tricked the judge who does not understand the long term consequences of her judgment. Two years ago, she made the opposite judgment.

Judge Collyer’s judgment has not been widely covered in the traditional media. Its significance has not been discussed. It is a significant victory for President Obama’s healthcare reform act. I presume Judge Collyer’s judgment has gotten limited coverage because President Obama did not want seniors and others to realize the significance of the judgment.

President Clinton promulgated the so-called POMS rules. The POMS is a primary source of information used by Social Security employees to process claims for Social Security benefits.

The rules stated that seniors who withdraw from Medicare Part A must forfeit their Social Security benefits.

Few people are aware of President Clinton’s POMS rules. Three years ago, a group of senior citizens sued the government about this rule. The seniors wanted to be allowed to opt out of Medicare Part A without losing their Social Security benefits.


Their logic was impeccable.

1. They paid their Medicare taxes separately from their Social Security taxes all their working lives.

2. Both Social Security and Medicare are separate benefits.

3. They are not asking for their Medicare payments to be returned.

4. They want to buy private insurance with their own money.

5. They do not want to lose their Social Security benefits. Social Security is a separate benefit.

Two years ago, Judge Collyer supported the seniors’ position and rejected President Obama’s argument. His argument was;

1. Plaintiffs were fortunate to receive Medicare Part A coverage.

2. Plaintiffs suffered no harm from Medicare Part A coverage and therefore lacked standing in the case.

3. President Clinton’s POMS are part of a government handbook.

4. The POMS never went through a formal rule-making process.

She also refused the Administration’s request to dismiss the suit, noting, "neither the statute nor the regulation specifies that Plaintiffs must withdraw from Social Security and repay retirement benefits in order to withdraw from Medicare."

Last week something caused the Washington D.C. judge to revisit and reverse her decision. Her logic is very shaky.

She said:

1. The Medicare statute provides that only individuals who are "entitled" to Social Security are "entitled" to Medicare Part A.

2. Therefore it follows,” the only way to avoid entitlement to Medicare Part A at age 65 is to forego the source of that entitlement, i.e., Social Security Retirement benefits."

This is not syllogistic reasoning. It is not logical. In order to obtain Medicare you have to be eligible for Social Security. This concept is reasonable.

If one does not accept Medicare one cannot receive Social Security benefits is disconnected and arbitrary. If this judgment stands it will set the precedent forcing Americans to have a duty to accept all entitlements the government rules necessary or suffer a penalty. Americans will have lost an important freedom.

Plaintiffs attorney, Kent Masterson Brown, warns: "Anyone concerned with what will happen when the bureaucrats start writing the thousands of pages of rules that will govern" ObamaCare need only look at this ruling. "Nothing will be optional."

This judgment will help President Obama in the Supreme Court fight for his mandate requiring Americans to purchase healthcare insurance. It will be a deterrent for business to create innovative and cheaper forms of healthcare insurance. It will eliminate healthcare insurers from the marketplace. It will lead the way to the “Public Option.”

There will be no need for a “Public Option.” Americans will have no other option than to accept government healthcare coverage.

President Obama’s next step would be to require all physicians to accept the government rules. The government will dictate to physicians who they can see and how they can treat them.

If physicians do not accept the mandate, they will lose their license to practice medicine.

President Obama’s goal is not about saving money or providing choices. His goal is to force all Americans into the same healthcare coverage program. A program the government controls completely.

I hope, for freedoms sake, President Obama does not get away with this trick play.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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