Court: Social Security Beneficiaries Cannot Drop Medicare Eligibility
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. residents enrolled in Social Security cannot forgo their legal right to receive Medicare benefits, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
In the case, five plaintiffs -- including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) -- said that they would prefer not to be eligible for Medicare benefits because their private health plans limit coverage for people who qualify for the program (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/7).
An attorney for the plaintiffs argued that U.S. residents should be able to keep their Social Security because they earned it, but none of them want the Medicare benefits (Pickler, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7).
The court ruled that the plaintiffs can decline Medicare benefits and pay for care out of pocket. However, the plaintiffs were seeking a "legal declaration" that they are "not legally entitled to Medicare Part A benefits," according to the court's decision ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/7).
One of the three judges, Karen LeCraft Henderson, agreed with the plaintiffs. She wrote that Congress did not intend for the Social Security Administration to penalize individuals who want to decline Medicare eligibility (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7).
However, the other two judges ruled that U.S. residents who enroll in Social Security automatically are entitled to Medicare benefits.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in the majority opinion, wrote, "We understand plaintiffs' frustration with their insurance situation and appreciate their desire for better private insurance coverage" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7). However, he added, "You can decline those benefits, but you still remain entitled to them under the statute" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.