Earlier this month, the Supreme Court announced that it would not review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Hall v. Sebelius. The case was, however, of great importance to me as a lawyer who, along with Kent Masterson Brown, had asked the Court to review the case because of what it tells us about the unfortunate state of this nation’s Medicare program. The issues here go not only to its fiscal woes, but also to the sad state of the administrative law that governs the operation of the system.
Hall is something of a quixotic lawsuit. Brought by a group of determined small government libertarians, the case raised the simple question of whether the plaintiffs could opt out of the Medicare system without having to forfeit all of their benefits, past and future, through the Social Security system. It should be instantly obvious that there will be no public groundswell to opt out of a system that gives program participants payments over their lifetime that far exceed their contributions to the plan. Indeed, the most recent report from the Medicare trustees detailed the program’s precarious long-term position given its use of general revenues to support its near open-ended entitlement system.