In what may be the most bizarre lawsuit to emerge from a Tea Party devoted to bizarre legal theories, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey sued the federal government seeking a declaration that he is not eligible for Medicare, even though he is, well, eligible for Medicare. Yesterday, in an opinion by conservative George W. Bush appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh rejected this claim:
This is not your typical lawsuit against the Government. Plaintiffs here have sued because they don’t want government benefits. They seek to disclaim their legal entitlement to Medicare Part A benefits for hospitalization costs. Plaintiffs want to disclaim their legal entitlement to Medicare Part A benefits because their private insurers limit coverage for patients who are entitled to Medicare Part A benefits. And plaintiffs would prefer to receive coverage from their private insurers rather than from the Government.
Plaintiffs’ lawsuit faces an insurmountable problem: Citizens who receive Social Security benefits and are 65 or older are automatically entitled under federal law to Medicare Part A benefits. To be sure, no one has to take the Medicare Part A benefits. But the benefits are available if you want them. There is no statutory avenue for those who are 65 or older and receiving Social Security benefits to disclaim their legal entitlement to Medicare Part A benefits.
To be fair to Armey, there is apparently some significance to his desire to not simply refuse Medicare benefits, but also be declared ineligible for them — private insurers do not provide certain benefits to people who are Medicare eligible. Nevertheless, it is truly strange that Armey would seek this declaration. Why would someone decide to pay for inferior private insurance when they have the option of enrolling in Medicare for free, especially when Medicare is in many ways superior to private insurance?