Americans Call for Loosening of Medicare Restrictions

Published August 1, 2005

At a Washington briefing on June 21 hosted by The Galen Institute (of which the author is president), Dr. Jacques Chaoulli, the Canadian doctor who successfully challenged a Quebec law banning private health insurance for services covered under the nation’s socialized health care program, expressed astonishment that some people in the United States persist in calling for single-payer health care systems. “People will suffer and die and regret such a health care system,” he warned.

Chaoulli quoted the chief justice of the Canadian Supreme Court as saying in the judgment, “there is unchallenged evidence that in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”

Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX) weighed in with a letter to his fellow U.S. House of Representatives members on the same day as the Canadian Supreme Court decision.

Johnson wrote of the current U.S. system, “Historically, Medicare beneficiaries have had the legal right to contract privately for health care services. However, in 1997 Congress created enough red tape to virtually stop the practice. Under that law, any doctor or health care provider who wants to set up a contract must sign an affidavit agreeing to stop seeing any Medicare patients [emphasis in original] for two years.”

Johnson has introduced H.R. 709, the Medicare Beneficiary Freedom to Contract Act of 2005. H.R. 709 “specifies that nothing shall prohibit a Medicare beneficiary from entering into a private contract with a physician or health care practitioner for the provision of Medicare covered professional services,” Johnson said.

— Grace-Marie Turner