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EDITORIAL: Medicare isn’t mandatory

Federal power to order coverage is challenged

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The Obama administration insists Americans must accept Medicare, even if they don't want it, in order to receive Social Security payments for which their paychecks have been raided for their entire adult lives. On Nov. 24, D.C. federal district Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ordered government lawyers to produce documentation for their extravagant claims of authority by next week. "She is literally calling their bluff," Kent Masterson Brown, attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Washington Times.

The five plaintiffs have paid Social Security and Medicare taxes throughout their careers and are willing to forfeit Medicare benefits in order to keep their private health plans. The government argues they must forgo Social Security payments if they give up Medicare even though the two programs are separate. From top to bottom, the administration's position is nonsensical.

The government's first claim that the plaintiffs had no legal "standing" to sue was knocked down by Judge Collyer, who also rejected a motion to reconsider her ruling. Then a Social Security official filed an affidavit complaining that allowing citizens to opt out of their own benefits would force bureaucrats "to allow for processing anomalies that would require retroactive processing capabilities." In other words, Big Brother should be able to force a system on resistant U.S. citizens to make work easier for bureaucrats. Nice try.

At a Nov. 17 hearing, the judge in effect said the question isn't one of bureaucratic convenience, but one of law. Her November order demanded that the government produce paperwork proving "when such a requirement/interpretation was adopted, and by what statute, regulation or administrative decision." Mr. Brown predicts, "Of course it's not there. It's just executive overreach."

The main question in this case is statutory: Do the laws as passed by Congress allow the government to tie Social Security and Medicare together in this way? The answer is relevant to the fight over Obamacare. These plaintiffs "are now not allowed to pay privately for their own health care services," according to their brief. "The federal government now determines the health care services they will receive. They have lost control over their own healthcare decision-making."

The government ought to lose this challenge on statutory grounds alone, but the practical parallels to Obamacare lawsuits make the substance of this case all the more poignant. Despite President Obama's efforts, this is still a free country. Government shouldn't be able to force Americans to accept care they don't care for.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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