This legislative week in the House of Representatives could be dubbed “Frivolous Public Health Legislation Week” based upon the bills placed upon the calendar for a vote in the full House. Three of the seven “public health” bills scheduled for a vote are especially egregious misuses of Congressional time and taxpayer dollars and are clear violations of the legislative powers granted to Congress in the Constitution.
The first of these bills is H.R. 1198, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2008. The bill is sponsored by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) and proposes to “amend the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) regarding early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss.” What exactly does this mean? It means that the newborns and infants hearing loss program within the PHSA would be expanded to provide services for young children and would include diagnostic services among those provided. The stated purpose of the bill is to develop “efficient models to ensure that newborns, infants, and young children who are identified with a hearing loss through screening are not lost to follow-up by a qualified health care provider and [to] ensure an adequate supply of qualified personnel to meet the screening, evaluation, and early intervention needs of children.”
The second such bill is S. 845, the Safety of Seniors Act of 2008, sponsored by Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY). S. 845 passed the Senate in August 2007 and since has awaited passage in the House. Like H.R. 1198 it would amend the PHSA, but its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to oversee and support a national education campaign focusing on reducing falls among older adults and preventing repeat falls and to award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to design and carry out local education campaigns.” It proceeds to give the Secretary the power “to improve the identification of older adults who have a high risk of falling; improve data collection and analysis to identify fall risk and protective factors; design, implement, and evaluate the most effective fall prevention interventions; tailor effective strategies to reduce falls to specific populations of older adults; maximize the dissemination of proven, effective fall prevention interventions; improve the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of elderly fall victims and older adults at high risk for falls; assess the risks of falls occurring in various settings; and conduct research concerning the barriers to the adoption of proven fall prevention interventions.”
Finally, there is H.R. 2063, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2008, sponsored by Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY). This bill directs the “Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to develop a voluntary policy for managing the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and to establish school-based food allergy management grants.” Among its provisions is one allowing the Secretary to address the “parental obligation” to provide schools with information regarding students’ specific food allergies and communication strategies between local schools and emergency services.
These, my friends, are American tax dollars hard at work. This country currently faces critical problems such as illegal immigration, an unfunded Social Security mandate, Medicare costs which are sky-rocketing, an economic recession and troublesome warfare. Yet Congress has decided to tackle the important issues: detecting which senior citizens are at risk of falling (my guess would be most of them), ensuring that children who are screened for hearing loss have a follow-up meeting with a physician, and addressing food allergies and parental obligations in local schools. How the bloated bureaucracies in Washington, D.C. are going to guarantee the latter two are beyond me. In spite of their monstrous size, neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor the Department of Education is large enough to send bureaucrats to monitor every corner of America, nor should they.
But this is the kind of nanny state that has come to be expected from politicians whose highest ambition is to stay in office, retaining the trappings of power and privilege. Forget Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.” Our current politicians seem to be saying, “Give me more bureaucracy or at least let me bury my head in the sand to avoid any difficult decisions.” Perhaps we should return to the days of a Congress in which the elected officials met infrequently and maintained jobs which provided their main source of income and were independent of the Federal Government. At the very least these bills should not be passed in the House. Congress has no business legislating such nonsense. Even if they were not nonsense they would be the responsibility of local jurisdictions, not of the Federal bureaucracy.