Institute for Health Freedom Joins Legal Brief
December 14, 1998
Fight for Seniors' Health Freedom
The Institute for Health Freedom is pleased to announce
that it has joined 14 other groups--including the Cato
Institute and ACLU--in challenging the new Medicare
rule that prohibits seniors' from privately contracting
with Medicare-participating doctors.
The 15-member group filed an Amicus (friend of the
court) brief in support of the appeal in United Seniors
Association v. Donna Shalala. This case challenges Section
4507 of the Balanced Budget Act, which requires any
doctor who accepts private payment for services covered
by Medicare to stop seeing all patients in the program
for two years.
In April, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ruled
that seniors do not have a constitutional right to privately
contract with doctors. United Seniors Association (USA)
appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia, where USA attorney Kent Masterson Brown
argued the case on October 23.
Why File an Amicus Brief?
Our country's legal system allows people and organizations
to advise the courts on matters affecting public policy.
Groups often file Amicus briefs to add perspective to
a current controversy before the court. Scientific and
professional organizations use them to provide specialized
knowledge of how a court decision may affect society.
The briefs supply arguments, not evidence. In the case
at hand, the Court of Appeals requested that groups
in agreement file a single brief.
The brief joined in by IHF argues that "If, as the
Supreme Court held in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri
Department of Health, a person has a constitutionally
protected right to refuse unwanted lifesaving medical
treatment in order to die, then surely there exists
an equal or even greater constitutional right to obtain
wanted medical treatment in order to remain healthy
IHF's Statement of Interest
In addition, each group submitted a "statement of
interest," describing its purpose in joining in the
brief. Following is IHF's "statement of interest:
"The Institute for Health Freedom ("IHF") is a nonprofit
research and education center that seeks to bring issues
of personal health freedom to the forefront of the health
policy debate. IHF believes that Americans should be
free (1) to pay for medical treatment with their own
funds; (2) to form private contracts with health-care
providers on mutually agreeable terms; and (3) to protect
the privacy of their medical records. IHF joins in this
brief because Section 4507 intrudes on each of these
"Specifically, the statute severely limits private
payment for medical services; it blocks seniors from
entering into private contracts with Medicare-participating
doctors; and it forces seniors to resort to Medicare
reimbursement , thereby opening up their medical records
to the federal agencies and private contractors that
IHF's Concern About Privacy
A primary reason why IHF joined in the brief is its
concern of medical privacy. The best way for individuals
to keep their medical records private and confidential
is to sign private contracts for the provision of medical
care, including medical record keeping. The District
Court has already ruled that if Medicare pays, then
you must play by its rules. It stands to reason, then,
that if Medicare pays, you could be forced to submit
your personal information to government agencies and
the private companies that administer Medicare.
We'll keep you posted on the forthcoming ruling.
This article was originally published in the November/December
1998 issue of Health Freedom Watch.