In a case that has ominous implications for where we are headed with ObamaCare, a federal judge has ruled people who get Social Security checks may not opt out of Medicare Part A and use privately purchased health insurance.
So much for: "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what," as President Barack Obama said two years ago in a speech to the American Medical Association.
Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District of Columbia's federal court ruled March 16 that three Social Security recipients are "entitled" to Medicare and the only way to "un-entitle" themselves is drop out of Social Security and repay any benefits they may have already received.
Though the law clearly states that those who are entitled to Social Security are also entitled to Medicare, a Clinton-era rule book called the Program Operations Manual System declared that the only way to waive Medicare Part A is to withdraw from Social Security entirely.
In a Mobius band-like convolution of plain English, the judge said being entitled to Medicare "does not actually mean 'capable of being rejected.' ... There being no affirmative filing of an application necessary for a Medicare Part A entitlement, it is a different type of entitlement because of its automatic nature."
Even Judge Collyer noted the irony of it all: "Medicare costs are skyrocketing and may bankrupt us all; nonetheless, participation in Medicare Part A (for hospital insurance) is statutorily mandated for retirees who are 65 years old or older and are receiving Social Security Retirement (so-called 'old age') benefits."
Universal, single-payer, socialized, whatever-you-call-it health care -- long the goal of this administration -- is only possible when everyone is trapped in it and no one can vote with their wallets for superior care outside the system. There can be no freedom of choice. There is only the egalitarian ideal -- the same dollop of thin gruel for everyone.
"Plaintiffs are trapped in a government program intended for their benefit," Judge Collyer writes. "They disagree and wish to escape. The Court can find no loophole."
The case is being appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it might be easier and preferable if Congress would simply clarify the law and rewrite the bureaucrats' instruction manual so it makes fiscal, linguistic and common sense.
Otherwise, we are all trapped.