Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah; are proposing a law that would unlink seniors from a longtime rule that requires them to participate in the “voluntary” Medicare program if they want their Social Security benefits.
“Making this change will have no impact on those who have enrolled, wish to stay enrolled or want to enroll in Medicare in the future,” explained Twila Brase of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.
“It simply allows senior citizens to collect their rightful Social Security benefits without being required to enroll in, or remain enrolled in, Medicare Part A.”
Her organization last winter assembled a coalition that included the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Eagle Forum, the Foundation for Economic Freedom and the Hispanic Leadership Fund to lobby against the requirement.
At the time, she said: “This is neither a law or a rule, but rather a series of executive instructions added by previous administrations to the SSA Program Operations Manual System – essentially a handbook for SSA employees. These instructions limit the options of senior citizens, leaving most of them stuck in Medicare, which is a voluntary entitlement program, even if they want to keep private coverage or keep private insurance as their primary coverage.”
Those groups also included 60 Plus Association, Action 4 Liberty, Alabama Policy Institute, American Commitment, American Family Association, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Association of Mature American Citizens, Center of the American Experiment, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Center for Medical Freedom, Freedom Works Foundation, Galen Institute, Goldwater Institute, Independent Women’s Voice, The Heartland Institute, Texas Public Policy Institute and Washington Policy Center.
CCHF said that Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Veterans for America, Practicing Physicians of American and Americans for Tax Reform recently had joined the campaign.
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., is working on a companion plan in the House.
In an announcement, Cruz said, “The Retirement Freedom Act would empower our seniors with the power of choice by providing them with the freedom to choose healthcare that best suits their needs.”
Paul added: “Our Retirement Freedom Act gives seniors the ability to act in their own best interest without bureaucrats threatening to take away their Social Security. It is a reform grounded in freedom and a respect for the American people, and it’s a model for the changes we can make to strengthen our health care system moving forward.”
Brase’ organization insisted the Trump administration could fix the problem with an order, since it was created by administrative mandates over the years.
“President Trump could right this administrative wrong by simply requiring these executive instructions to be removed from the SSA handbook, which is what the groups have requested,” CCHF said.
In years gone by, Brase explained, Americans could waive their Medicare benefits if they wished, without losing their Social Security.
However, present policy requires participation, since Social Security benefits are canceled without a verified signup to the health program.
The petition to the White House earlier said, “These procedures effectively trap seniors in Medicare, but you have the authority to liberate them.”
The groups contend the current practice of the Social Security Administration “unlawfully prohibits an individual from receiving their Social Security benefits unless they enroll in Medicare Part A.”
The original Medicare Act of 1965 declared: “Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to preclude … any individual from purchasing or otherwise securing, protection against the cost of any health services.”
But the actions of previous presidents have made Medicare, for practical purposes, “the only insurance coverage available to elderly Americans, even if they have other preferred coverage they are willing to pay for.”