Medicare & Seniors' Healthcare Issues
One of the most important issues policymakers need to address is seniors' freedom of choice. Many people do not realize it, but government regulations severely penalize seniors who wish to keep their private health insurance, rather than enrolling in Medicare Part A (the government hospital insurance program), upon turning age 65.
Little-known administrative policies adopted by the government in 1993 and strengthened in 2002 say that seniors can't refuse Part A coverage unless they give up their Social Security benefits. Adding insult to injury, once enrolled in the program, the only way seniors can withdraw from it is to repay all Social Security benefits they received, as well as any hospitalization benefits Medicare paid on their behalf. Yet, a growing number of seniors want to continue their private health-insurance coverage, rather than enroll in Medicare. And they shouldn't be penalized for doing so.
In fact, Medicare was not intended to be forced upon seniors. When Medicare was created in 1965, Congress promised that the program would not interfere with seniors’ freedom to purchase and use private health insurance. That law, which remains unchanged, clearly says that “nothing contained in this title shall be construed to preclude...any individual from purchasing or otherwise securing, protection against the cost of any health services.” Yet over the years the program has been regulated into becoming more of a trap than a safety net.
It's time to uphold seniors' freedom of choice and let those people go who wish to be freed from Medicare.
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(Summary updated November 2009)