Surprise ruling affirms yet another federal health mandate 

A recent court ruling has helped President Barack Obama push ahead with a mandate that all citizens be required to have government health insurance.

In a March 16 decision, Federal District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer — who previously served as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board — ruled that seniors who elect to opt out of Medicare coverage must then forfeit their Social Security benefits as well and repay all past Social Security benefits prior to opting out.

The ruling relates to a lawsuit filed in 2008, when, in Hall v. Sebelius, several senior citizens challenged a 1993 Clinton administration program rule, and sued the federal government for the right to opt out of Medicare without losing their Social Security benefits.

The plaintiffs all paid their Medicare taxes throughout their employment histories and did not request reimbursement of this money. These individuals simply wished to engage other health insurance plans that they believed would provide better coverage than that of the government Medicare program. In addition, these seniors contributed to Social Security while they were working, and accepted these benefits upon retirement.

The seniors’ lawsuit argued:

  • Both The Social Security and Medicare Acts state that the application for Social Security benefits and Medicare are voluntary and that applications for each program are not dependent upon the other.
  • Forced participation in Medicare violates an individual’s constitutional right to privacy.
  • The Clinton era rules were promulgated without undergoing the required “notice” and “comment” rule-making requirements, a violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.


The judge stated that, in its arguments, the Obama administration “extols the benefits of Medicare … and suggests that Plaintiffs would agree they are not truly injured if they were to learn more about Medicare, perhaps through discovery.”

The judge also stated, “The parties use a lot of ink disputing whether Plaintiffs’ desire to avoid Medicare Part A is sensible.”

Most astounding about this case is that as of late 2009, Collyer supported the plaintiffs’ claim, and even refused the Obama administration’s request to dismiss the suit, ruling that “neither the statute nor the regulation specifies that Plaintiffs must withdraw from Social Security and repay retirement benefits in order to withdraw from Medicare.”

In her stunning reversal, the judge argued that requiring a mechanism for plaintiffs and others in their situation to “dis-enroll” would be contrary to congressional intent, which was to provide “mandatory” benefits under Medicare Part A and for those receiving Social Security Retirement benefits.

Plaintiffs are trapped in a government program intended for their benefit. They disagree and wish to escape. The Court can find no loophole or requirement that the Secretary provide such a pathway.

According to Collyer, an “entitlement” is “mandatory,” and her opinion will undoubtedly be relied upon by the Obama administration as support for claims of “mandatory” entitlements, such as that which is the crux of Obamacare — which could be Medicare for everyone. And if Medicare is a mandatory entitlement, Americans are not permitted any options to the contrary.

Examiner contributor Susan T. Berry is a practicing psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn.

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Susan T. Berry

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