Last Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to take a number of steps to give seniors more choices in the Medicare program. The executive order repeals a Clinton-era rule forbidding any senior who refuses to accept Medicare from enrolling in Social Security. This provision forces seniors who would rather provide their own health care to accept government health care or forego Social Security benefits. Many seniors need Social Security because taxes and inflation make it difficult or impossible to save for their own retirement.
The order also instructs the Health and Human Services Department to remove all barriers to private connections in Medicare. This refers to the extent the existing laws and regulations limit seniors’ ability to use their own money to pay for health care. Current law says that a physician who forms a private contract with a senior cannot file any Medicare claims for two years and that seniors are only eligible to write private contracts with certain types of healthcare providers.
Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul championed repealing these restrictions on seniors’ health freedom when he was in Congress. Below is Dr. Paul’s official statement on his Seniors Health Care Freedom Act, which allowed seniors to form private contracts in Medicare and allowed seniors to decline Medicare without losing their Social Security benefits:
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Seniors' Health Care Freedom Act. This act protects seniors' fundamental right to make their own health care decisions by repealing federal laws that interfere with seniors' ability to form private contracts for medical services. This bill also repeals laws which force seniors into the Medicare program against their will. When Medicare was first established, seniors were promised that the program would be voluntary. In fact, the original Medicare legislation explicitly protected a senior's right to seek out other forms of medical insurance. However, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 prohibits any physician who forms a private contract with a senior from filing any Medicare reimbursement claims for two years. As a practical matter, this means that seniors cannot form private contracts for health care services.
Seniors may wish to use their own resources to pay for procedures or treatments not covered by Medicare, or to simply avoid the bureaucracy and uncertainty that comes when seniors must wait for the judgment of a Center from Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) bureaucrat before finding out if a desired treatment is covered.
Seniors' right to control their own health care is also being denied due to the Social Security Administration's refusal to give seniors who object to enrolling for Medicare Part A Social Security benefits. This not only distorts the intent of the creators of the Medicare system; it
also violates the promise represented by Social Security. Americans pay taxes into the Social Security Trust Fund their whole working lives and are promised that Social Security will be there for them when they retire. Yet, today, seniors are told that they cannot receive these
benefits unless they agree to join an additional government program!
At a time when the fiscal solvency of Medicare is questionable, to
say the least, it seems foolish to waste scarce Medicare funds on those
who would prefer to do without Medicare. Allowing seniors who neither
want nor need to participate in the program to refrain from doing so
will also strengthen the Medicare program for those seniors who do wish
to participate in it. Of course, my bill does not take away Medicare
benefits from any senior. It simply allows each senior to choose
voluntarily whether or not to accept Medicare benefits or to use his
own resources to obtain health care.
Forcing seniors into government programs and restricting their
ability to seek medical care free from government interference
infringes on the freedom of seniors to control their own resources and
make their own health care decisions. A woman who was forced into
Medicare against her wishes summed it up best in a letter to my office,
``. . . I should be able to choose the medical arrangements I prefer
without suffering the penalty that is being imposed.'' I urge my
colleagues to protect the right of seniors to make the medical
arrangements that best suit their own needs by cosponsoring the
Seniors' Health Care Freedom Act.