Sen. Jim DeMint’s Retirement Freedom Act would decouple SS and Medicare

posted at 1:45 pm on July 1, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Sen. Jim DeMint and 12 Republican colleagues yesterday introduced the Retirement Freedom Act, which would allow seniors to voluntarily opt out of Medicare while still collecting Social Security payments.

Apparently, thanks to rules issued by the Social Security Administration (rules issued without the benefit of public comment!), seniors’ Social Security benefits are presently handcuffed to Medicare Part A enrollment. That — even though the Social Security Act and Medicare Act both state that enrollment in the entitlement programs should be voluntary. The Retirement Freedom Act would restore the voluntary nature of enrollment in these two programs.

“American seniors should have the freedom to make their own choice about health care without Uncle Sam threatening to take away their Social Security checks,” DeMint said in a news release. “These two programs have been unnecessarily tied together by unaccountable bureaucrats without the consent of the people or their elected officials. Today, if a senior can afford private insurance and chooses to not accept Medicare, they are forced to give up their Social Security benefits. This is not right and it must change.”

In the short term, the Act will likely save taxpayer dollars. If just 1 percent of eligible seniors opted out, the RFA would immediately save Medicare $1.5 billion. But perhaps even more importantly, in the long-term, the Act will grant seniors more choice. As those seniors who can afford it opt out, incentives to provide private insurance will arise.

In light of the straits Medicare currently faces, the Act comes at a particularly appropriate time. According to the American Medical Association, about one in five physicians overall (17 percent) are restricting the amount of Medicare patients in their practice because their reimbursements rates keep getting cut. The number is even higher among primary care physicians, where nearly one-third (31 percent) restrict the number of Medicare patients they see. Seniors shouldn’t have to automatically enroll in such a struggling program just to be able to receive Social Security benefits.

At the same time, they should have the freedom to enroll, if they so choose. Importantly, the RFA preserves both freedoms. It allows seniors who have opted out of the program to opt back in without incurring a penalty.

The link between Social Security payouts and Medicare Part A enrollment has been challenged in court, as well. In Hall v. Sebelius, the plaintiffs argued the government has no right to withhold Social Security benefits on condition of Medicare enrollment. But the court essentially held Medicare is not merely an entitlement; it’s also a requirement. The RFA would rectify that ruling.


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Sen. Jim DeMint and 12 Republican colleagues yesterday introduced the Retirement Freedom Act, which would allow seniors to voluntarily opt out of Medicare while still collecting Social Security payments.

Posturing, but still FEARLESS.

Leftie politicians to go “OFF” in 5…..4…..3….

PappyD61 on July 1, 2011 at 1:48 PM

excellent idea…

cmsinaz on July 1, 2011 at 1:49 PM

……..and this proves the Republicans want to throw Granny off the cliff (after they take away her Meds, kill her cat, let the rich Jew bankers foreclose on her, and drain her retirement savings for the FAT CATS on Wall Street).

PappyD61 on July 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM

A great idea, with little chance of getting through a 53D/47R Senate. But Republican candidates for Democrat-held Senate seats should campaign on this–give us more Senators, and we’ll let seniors by private insurance!

Steve Z on July 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM

oops…”by” should be “buy”.

Steve Z on July 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM

It’ll never happen. It makes too much sense.

joejm65 on July 1, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Won’t fly. The right will betray and scroom you too.

Schadenfreude on July 1, 2011 at 1:55 PM

DeMint is at least keeping the Tea Party momentum going. It’s not a perfect solution, but a great start. Eventually, if our side comes up with enough solid ideas while the Dems do nothing we should see some progress.

search4truth on July 1, 2011 at 1:59 PM

A lot of corporate retirement plans require the retirees to take Medicare, as their insurance after 65 is supplementary only.

Dasher on July 1, 2011 at 2:05 PM

I don’t think I quit understand this. What cost does one incur by enroling in Medicare?

Count to 10 on July 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM

GREAT IDEA!!!

There is no Constitutionally valid nor any morally valid reason to couple these two programs.

Go Jim DeMint!!!

landlines on July 1, 2011 at 2:07 PM

GREAT IDEA!!!

There is no Constitutionally valid nor any morally valid reason to couple these two programs.
Go Jim DeMint!!!

landlines on July 1, 2011 at 2:07 PM

There is no constitutionally valid reason for thes programs to exist.

Count to 10 on July 1, 2011 at 2:09 PM

So it’s a regulation?

One of the “to do ” things on the new president’s list in January, 2012, along with rescinding every regulation put in place by Obama. Obama tries to sidetrack Congress by using regulations and executive orders, but a new executive can change them without going through Congress, too.

Wethal on July 1, 2011 at 2:09 PM

A lot of corporate retirement plans require the retirees to take Medicare, as their insurance after 65 is supplementary only.

Dasher on July 1, 2011 at 2:05 PM

How about fatcat union gold-plated pension plans, and federal and state and local government employees retirement plans? Are they all supplementary to Medicare?

The number of private non-union retirement plans that include any medical benefits is fast dwindling.

slickwillie2001 on July 1, 2011 at 2:42 PM

But the court essentially held Medicare is not merely an entitlement; it’s also a requirement. The RFA would rectify that ruling.

How is it a requirement? Is there a law that in fact says this? If so, I’d shut up, but I’d like to know where the law is, that says the two are mutual, and one cannot have one without the other?

I was also of the understanding that once apon a time, if you paid into SS you’d benefit back from it, but now we have people on it, that haven’t paid a dime to it. Did it not start out as a retirement program? When did medicare become an absolute to it?

C’mon dem. You proclaim freedoms, and liberties, and this is NOT either. So what gives? Either you cherish your freedoms and liberties, or you don’t. Which is it?

capejasmine on July 1, 2011 at 2:42 PM

SS and Medicare Part A were coupled by regulatory decision during the Clinton administration (1993?) if I recall correctly.

Site for updates on ongoing lawsuit is at http://thefundforpersonalliberty.org/medicare-lawsuit-update/index.html.

secant on July 1, 2011 at 2:57 PM

I don’t think I quit understand this. What cost does one incur by enroling in Medicare?

Count to 10 on July 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Medicare premiums.

bopbottle on July 1, 2011 at 2:59 PM

There are no premiums for Part A. But it does restrict your ability to get care due to the restrictions that Medicare puts on physicians.

secant on July 1, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Part A: Most people do not pay a monthly Part A premium because they or a spouse has 40 or more quarters of Medicare-covered employment. The Part A premium is $254.00 per month for people having 30-39 quartersand $461.00 per month for people who are not otherwise eligible for premium-free hospital insurance and have less than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.
Part B premiums are about $110, but try telling someone with SSA when applying for social security benefits that you don’t want Part B. They will tell you the premium will be deducted and you have no choice in the matter.

bopbottle on July 1, 2011 at 3:08 PM

I don’t think I quit understand this. What cost does one incur by enroling in Medicare?

Count to 10 on July 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM

My thoughts as well. I’m all for straightening out bureaucratic rules made by illiterates, but I don’t see what actual restriction these seniors are suffering.

If you can afford it, and with doctors dropping off of medicare there are certainly motivations to do so, can’t they just pick up another policy while enrolled by default in Medicare?

Seems like the industry that will be spawned is supplemental programs to help augment meager Medicare payments and open up access to more doctors that way, for those who can pay for them.

TexasDan on July 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

How do you avoid the very real possibility that seniors will opt out of Medicare and then not buy private healthcare insurance? If we demand that they do, implying a bureacracy to ensure that they do, doesn’t that slide up against little Bammie’s unconstitutional mandate?

slickwillie2001 on July 1, 2011 at 3:18 PM

I don’t think I quit understand this. What cost does one incur by enroling in Medicare?

Count to 10 on July 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM

My thoughts as well. I’m all for straightening out bureaucratic rules made by illiterates, but I don’t see what actual restriction these seniors are suffering.

TexasDan on July 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

One doesn’t “enroll” in medicare, and the premiums are deducted from the SS check. Period.

Social Security recipients are also required by law to pay for Prescription Drug Benefits, whether they use ‘em or not (I don’t, and won’t. Drugs don’t work for me, and I’ve managed for over 60 years to do without.) I live on $15k a year, and have paid over $7k in unused “insurance” coverage in the last 6 years.

In an effort to get out from under AARP’s “supplementary” drug plan, this year I enrolled in a Kaiser Senior Advantage plane – because I’m forced to by the Government. That’s another $93 a month on top of the $96 for Medicare.

DeMint’s plan is bound to have a lot of support among seniors, and like somebody said above, makes too much sense to have a chance in Washington.

warbaby on July 1, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Great idea, and great for businesses, too. They can compete for well-heeled seniors now too.

A friend of mine and I who work for a bureaucracy (because we can only get med insurance there) were just saying, what if we could each buy our own insurance on the open market? We would be free to start our own business, work part time, work at a private business…imagine the unleashing of economic activity if we could.

PattyJ on July 1, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Tina, at a guess DeMint has taken leave of his senses. People will go with private insurance until their money runs out. Then they will go to Medicare, when their medical bills are at the highest. That’s poison to drive Medicare right through the roof and destroy it in a manner that will hurt people. It needs destruction. The Ryan plan is a better approach, dump it in exchange for vouchers for those younger than 55.

{^_^}

herself on July 2, 2011 at 3:41 AM