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Newsletter
Health Freedom Watch
February 2005

Contents:


NVIC Finds "Anti-Terror" Bill Overrides States' Rights and Mandates a National Electronic Tracking System

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) announced on February 4 that legislation introduced by Senators Judd Gregg and Bill Frist titled "Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005" (S. 3) is an "assault on the Constitution" and a serious threat to protecting the health [freedom] and informed-consent rights of citizens.

"This bill is labeled as an 'anti-terror' bill," said NVIC president and co-founder Barbara Loe Fisher, "but it is a power grab by the federal government and an assault on self-governance and the informed consent ethic. It takes away the freedom of the people to make their voices heard through their elected state representatives and protect themselves from unsafe drugs. and unsafe vaccines, such as those that contain high levels of mercury. It gives unprecedented liability protection to the drug industry and broad powers to federal officials to hide the truth from the people about vaccine and prescription drug risks. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.'" Fisher stressed, "Protecting the public health was not delegated to the federal government and public health laws, including laws governing use of vaccines, have always been under the control of citizens residing in each state."

Additionally, Fisher reports that the legislation "creates and funds a mandatory, national electronic tracking system operated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to monitor vital records of citizens relating to both notifiable and non-notifiable diseases and 'new trends' and 'patterns in public health.'" She notes the bill also "creates penalties for states and health care providers not reporting in a 'timely manner' to the national tracking system."

"S. 3 is being promoted by sponsors as a military veteran benefit bill because it raises the death benefits and other financial support for the families of soldiers who lost their lives in the war in Iraq," noted Fisher. "The irony of this bill is that it is using the families of citizens who have given their lives to defend our nation's freedom in order to take rights and freedoms away from other families. Military veterans should not be used to protect the drug industry and take away the freedom for all Americans to have their voices heard through their elected state representatives. In his Inaugural speech, President Bush said 'There is no justice without freedom.' This bill does not serve justice or freedom," Fisher said.

To read the complete bill text of S.3, visit the Congressional legislative database (http://thomas.loc.gov) and search for bill number S.3.

For a copy of NVIC's full press release, see: http://www.nvic.org.

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Who's Shaping Our Genetic Health Policies?
Upcoming Federal Genetics Meeting on February 28 and March 1

A federal committee charged with advising the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on genetics issues will hold an open meeting on February 28 and March 1. The meeting will be broadcast over the Internet.

The agenda of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society (SACGHS) meeting includes discussion of:

  • A report on heritable disorders and genetic diseases in newborns and children; The National Health Information Initiative; An update on federal genetic nondiscrimination legislation; Ethical, legal and social issues of large population studies;
  • The dichotomy between social identity and ancestry in large population studies; and
  • The UK Biobank.

    There will also be time allotted for public comments.

    This SACGHS was established in 2002 to "provide a forum for expert discussion and deliberation and the formulation of advice and recommendations on the range of complex and sensitive medical, ethical, legal and social issues raised by new technological developments in human genetics." It also works with other federal agencies and makes recommendations to the HHS secretary concerning how genetics issues should be addressed.

    In 2004 the SACGHS published a report citing priority areas for studying genetics, health, and society. The 62-page report titled "A Roadmap for the Integration of Genetics and Genomics into Health and Society" can be accessed online at: ( http://www4.od.nih.gov/oba/SACGHS/reports/SACGHSPriorities.pdf).

    For information about the upcoming SACGHS meeting, the full agenda, and how to attend via the Internet, visit: (http://www4.od.nih.gov/oba/SACGHS/meetings/Feb2005/SACGHSFeb2005.htm).

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    Government Imposes a Huge Financial Penalty on Seniors Who Reject Socialized Medicine

    On February 11 we posted an important document at our website: "What Every American Needs to Know about Social Security and the Mandatory Medicare-Enrollment Policy."

    This brief paper explains that seniors who attempt to reject Medicare Part A (the socialized hospital program) pay a huge financial penalty. It addresses the following issues:

  • Why should you care about this? What is the source of the policy? How does the federal government enforce it? Was this how Medicare was supposed to work?

  • What can be done to restore seniors' health freedom?

    Here are some excerpts from the paper:

    Why Should You Care about this Policy?


    Why would anyone want to reject "free" government health care and use private health insurance instead for services Medicare covers?

    Just as many parents choose to pay for private schooling even though they've paid taxes and public school is "freely" available, seniors might opt to pay privately for their health care and insurance for a number of reasons. Consider the following:

    • Medicare has the final say on hospital and doctor fees and threatens to expel doctors from the program if they charge patients extra for "deluxe" versions of services already covered by the program.

      Medicare dictates what services and treatments are "medically necessary" and covered for seniors and disabled persons. Some patients have found that Medicare coverage has actually hurt, rather than helped, their treatment regimen.

    • Medicare requires that claims be submitted to the federal government and audits provider/patient information for fraud and abuse. Seniors who want to maintain a truly confidential doctor-patient relationship might opt to pay privately.
    What Federal Policy Dictates Mandatory Enrollment?

    The Social Security Administration's HI 00801.002 "Waiver of HI Entitlement by Monthly Beneficiary" states:

    Individuals entitled to monthly [Social Security] benefits which confer eligibility for HI [Hospital Insurance] may not waive HI entitlement. The only way to avoid HI entitlement is through withdrawal of the monthly benefit application. Withdrawal requires repayment of all RSDI [Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance] and HI benefit payments made. (Emphasis added.)
    How Does the Federal Government Enforce Its Mandatory Enrollment Policy?

    The federal government forces citizens to sign up for Medicare Part A when they apply for Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration even combines the applications for both programs into a single form. No form currently exists for Social Security benefits only. It's all or nothing.

    Was Medicare Supposed to Work this Way?


    No. When Medicare was created in 1965, Congress promised that the program would not interfere with citizens' freedom to purchase private health insurance. The original Medicare law (which amended the Social Security Act by creating Title XVIII-Health Insurance for the Aged) included the following provision (which remains unchanged):

    Sec. 1803. OPTION TO INDIVIDUALS TO OBTAIN OTHER HEALTH INSURANCE PROTECTION: Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to preclude any State from providing, or any individual from purchasing or otherwise securing, protection against the cost of any health services. (Emphasis added.)
    Additionally, the original Medicare law stated in Section 1802, "[F]ree choice by patient guaranteed." But this provision was amended and seniors' freedom was limited with passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That law included Section 4507, which penalizes physicians who accept private payment for Medicare-covered services: any doctor who does so must stop seeing all Medicare patients for two years. The United Seniors Association challenged this rule in federal court, but the court avoided the issue, ruling only that non-covered services could be privately paid for.

    What Can Be Done to Restore Seniors' Health Freedom?

    Given the coming financial challenges to both Social Security and Medicare, this freedom-reducing policy must be reconsidered now. To ensure that all Americans are free to pay privately for the health insurance and medical care of their choice, Congress should:

    1. Sever the link between Social Security and Medicare Part A, so that enrollment in the latter is not a condition of receiving benefits from the former. The applications for the two programs should be separated.

      Repeal Section 4507 of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Sec. 1802(b) of the Social Security Act) to nullify the two-year penalty on physicians who accept private payment for Medicare-covered services.

    2. Ensure that all citizens are free to maintain private contracts and thus establish truly confidential doctor-patient relationships.
    These policy changes will help ensure that physicians are most responsive to individual patients, rather than to the federal government.

    The briefing paper can be accessed at http://www.forhealthfreedom.org/Publications/MedicareMedicaid/MandatoryEnrollment.html.

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    HHS Response Ignores Question about "Legal Authority", Raises New Questions about Restrictions on Seniors' Freedom "Inside" the Medicare Program

    Last summer three congressmen sent then-secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson a letter asking him these two important questions:

    • If a federal law says a person "shall be entitled" to a certain benefit or shall "automatically qualify" to receive a certain benefit, can the person waive the benefit?

    • What section of federal law gives the Social Security Administration the authority to condition receipt of Social Security benefits, to which a senior citizen is otherwise entitled to, on that senior's enrollment in Medicare Part A?
    The response, dated November 2004, did not provide the federal government's legal authority for forcing seniors to enroll in Medicare Part A or forgo their Social Security benefits. Instead, HHS basically said the law doesn't specifically provide the ability for citizens to waive entitlement to Medicare Part A (without losing their Social Security benefits). Thus, the government interprets this to mean they can force citizens to enroll in Medicare Part A or forgo their Social Security benefits.

    Moreover, the response confirmed that under existing federal policy "[Citizens] have no method for refusing Part A entitlement, or for terminating such entitlement, as long as the beneficiary continues to receive monthly Social Security benefits."

    Additionally, the response, signed by Dr. Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states: "I am not aware of any law that limits a [Medicare] beneficiary's ability to obtain care outside of the Medicare program or that prohibits an individual from using private funds to obtain health services" (emphasis added).

    This statement raises an important question: What about seniors who want to pay privately for care inside Medicare (that is, Medicare-covered services)? If seniors are forced to enroll in Medicare Part A and are thus considered Medicare beneficiaries, they and their doctors are burdened by more than 100,000 pages of rules and regulations. For example, the New York Times reports that Medicare threatens to expel doctors from the program if they accept extra payment for "deluxe" versions of services covered by the program.

    What's more, Medicare beneficiaries are forbidden from opening Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) under the Medicare reform law passed in 2003.

    Clearly, forcing seniors into Medicare Part A limits their freedom. That's why they should not be penalized for refusing enrollment.

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    Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2005 Institute for Health Freedom.