Washington Times – Sam Johnson Op-Ed
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Give seniors a choice
Rep. Sam Johnson
Seniors who want to collect their Social Security benefits and opt out of Medicare won a court victory recently that hopefully will pave the way for them to be able to do just that.
Medicare straitjackets seniors into a government-run health program even if they don’t want it and thwarts their freedom to take control over their own health care decisions. Specifically, Medicare mandates that seniors enroll in Medicare if they want to receive Social Security benefits. Medicare even forces well-off seniors, like Ross Perot, who want to opt out of Medicare into the government-run program.
In the recent court opinion by the U.S. District Court in Washington, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer denied a motion to dismiss filed by the secretary of health and human services and the Social Security administrator. The plaintiffs in Hall v. Sebelius, formerly Brian Hall et al. v. Michael Leavitt et al., claim the federal government has no right to force them into Medicare while holding their hard-earned Social Security benefits hostage. I agree with them. This new decision hopefully will fast-track the court case that would give seniors the power to choose the health plan that best fits their needs.
Ironically, the federal court system may be moving faster than Congress. Earlier this year, I reintroduced the Medicare Beneficiary Freedom to Choose Act, H.R. 3356. It would produce real taxpayer savings by allowing seniors to opt out of Medicare Part A when they become eligible, usually at age 65, if they don’t want to receive the taxpayer-funded benefit. (Part A covers hospital and skilled nursing home care, among other things. Presently, seniors may choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B or Part D, but not Part A.)
If Mr. Perot wants to pay for his own medical care, we should let him! If just 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries chose to keep the health insurance they have and opt out of Medicare, it could save as much as $1.5 billion a year.
The bill also would put seniors in control of their health decisions by giving them the independence to choose their own doctor in Medicare. Believe it or not, under current law, if a doctor enters into a private contract with a Medicare patient, the doctor must leave the entire Medicare program for two years. The bill would remove the Medicare red tape that makes it unlawful for seniors to visit a health care provider of their choice.
Ask any senior who has tried to find a general practitioner willing to accept Medicare, and you’ll know why seniors want, need and deserve better medical options. As the Democrats in the House push their costly government-controlled health care plan, H.R. 3200, on the American public, my primary objective is to make health care more affordable, more available and more accessible.
While President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say their health reform bill will let you keep what you have if you want, the reality is that anytime the government gets involved, real choice goes out the window. Why should seniors have to sue the federal government so they can keep the health plan they have and like? If the Democrats think allowing the government to take over health care truly will result in freedom of choice, we only need to examine the Medicare program to know that is not true.
Though I am encouraged by the recent court decision to give seniors the right to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to a government entitlement program, I hope Congress moves to pass H.R. 3356 to extend this freedom to choose to all of our nation’s seniors.
Unlike the Democrats’ key talking point, which rings hollow, I believe in word and deed that if you like the health coverage you have, you should be able to keep it. Hopefully either Congress or the courts will give America’s seniors the freedom to make their own health care choices.
Rep. Sam Johnson is a Texas Republican.
The article in the Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/18/give-seniors-a-choice/