CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE, PUBLIC POLICY GROUPS, FILE AMICUS BRIEF TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES

For Immediate Release Contact:  Jim Campi
July 9, 1998

           (202) 467-5300

 

(Washington, D.C.) – At a news conference this afternoon, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) joined representatives of several public policy groups to announce the filing of an amicus curiae brief in the case of United Seniors Association et al v. Donna Shalala.  The brief supports the efforts of plaintiffs in United Seniors to protect the rights of Medicare beneficiaries by having Section 4507 of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 declared unconstitutional.

“Section 4507 is an affront to our nation’s democratic principles and the fundamental liberties of America’s senior citizens,” remarked CAGW President Thomas A. Schatz.  “The practical effect of this shortsighted provision is to bar seniors from obtaining the medical services they want outside the Medicare system.  The Supreme Court has given patients the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment in order to die.  Surely, there exists an even greater right to obtain wanted medical treatment in order to live.”

Section 4507 states that seniors have the right to pay out-of-pocket for procedures covered under the Medicare program, but then sets up a draconian system that prevents them from doing exactly that.  To accept an out-of-pocket payment from a Medicare beneficiary, Section 4507 requires doctors to submit an affidavit to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreeing to refrain from accepting any other Medicare patients for a period of two years.  If they fail to do so, the physicians could be faced with fines and possible jail time, meaning few, if any, will provide such services.

The amicus brief filed by CAGW and nine other public policy groups urges the U.S. District Court of Appeals to repeal Section 4507.  The introduction of the brief states unequivocally:  “This case presents the question of whether Congress can constitutionally prevent senior citizens from going outside the Medicare system to purchase medical services they want at their own expense.”

Joining CAGW at the news conference is the United Seniors Association, a plaintiff in the original suit, as well as representatives of the public policy groups involved in filing the amicus brief.  Those groups are as follows:  The American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital

Area, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Arlington County (Va.) Medical Society, the Landmark Legal Foundation, The Association for Liberty, Choice and Self-Autonomy, the Seniors Coalition, the 60 Plus Association, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“The arrogance of government lawyers in this case is breathtaking,” Schatz remarked.  “They have actually argued that seniors are unable to decide for themselves their healthcare needs and are incapable of wisely using their own money for that purpose.  This paternalistic attitude is offensive in a free society.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is a 600,000-member nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and abuse in the federal government.

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