In a little-noticed section of a November executive order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was directed to “revise current rules or policies to preserve the Social Security retirement insurance benefits of seniors who choose not to receive benefits under Medicare Part A.” (E.O. 13890, Sec. 11) The order took effect on April 3, 2020.
We have not yet heard that the rules have changed, but presumably anyone can now drop Medicare coverage without it affecting their Social Security retirement benefit. According to John Kraus, one of the plaintiffs in the original suit, “There isn’t any law, statute, or regulation that memorializes in the U.S. Code this linkage of the two programs. It is only found in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Program Operations Manual System (POMS).”
When Mr. Kraus was asked why he and his fellow plaintiffs wanted to separate from Medicare, he stated that foremost reason is that one enrolled in Medicare cannot have a High Deductible Health Plan with a Health Savings Account. Secondly, for FEHB participants, their coverage becomes secondary to Medicare, without a premium reduction for FEHB coverage. Third, there is the issue of Medicare solvency, which could be a serious consideration in the near future. Lastly, there is the consideration of reduced choice and availability of health care providers because they are either leaving the Medicare program or not accepting additional Medicare recipients as new patients.”
Advocates against the policy stated that such a right to opt out would only weaken the system as a whole.