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Plaintiffs Win Suit to Keep Their Social Security Benefits Even if They Reject Medicare

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Constitutional attorney Kent Masterson Brown has won an important legal victory on behalf of three plaintiffs — former Congressman Dick Armey, Brian Hall and John Kraus — who sued to keep their Social Security benefits after they withdrew from Medicare Part A, preferring to keep their private healthcare coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services had sought to dismiss the suit, arguing that the plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies. But U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, noting that one plaintiff has waited three years for an administrative hearing without action, ruled that the plaintiffs had standing to contest their claim on the merits of the case. On October 5, 2009, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial regarding the judge’s decision, saying, “This (case) could be a big deal”.
The plaintiffs argued that as they had paid a lifetime of taxes into Social Security, they should not be denied benefits simply because they are willing to pay for their own medical care. In 1993, under the Clinton administration, Social Security’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS) was changed to state that seniors who withdraw from Medicare A also surrender their Social Security benefits. You can’t have one without the other. But POMS is not in the statute or regulations that govern Medicare.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the response of the Department of HHS speaks volumes about the contradiction between the Obama administration’s principles and 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.”
Freedom of healthcare choice is a big deal ( Should Medicare become insolvent, as it is widely expected to do, seniors may not be able to opt out in order to preserve their health insurance. Coercion in your choice of healthcare is a key part of the current healthcare legislation.

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