Trojan Horse Legislation

Big Brother's medical crew

By Linda Gorman, senior fellow, & Dave Kopel, research director, of the Independence Institute

6/15/00 2:50 p.m., National Review Online

How could anyone veto legislation designed to save children unnecessary pain and the health-care system unnecessary expense? This was the question asked in a recent Denver Post editorial castigating Colorado governor Bill Owens for vetoing HB-1023, legislation to create a statewide registry to track immunizations. All worked up at the possibility that parents might lose track of immunizations and that children entering school might have to have extra shots, the paper claimed that the veto "impedes progress for Colorado children as well as our public health system."

The statewide immunization registry proposed for Colorado was an outgrowth of All Kids Count, a national program established by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Long a proponent of nationalized health care, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation helped bankroll Clinton Care. Following its defeat at the national level, the Foundation shifted its emphasis to the states. It has successfully institutionalized its brand of health care in a number of states by offering direct grants to state executive-branch agencies in exchange for compliant policy. In Colorado, health bureaucrats have received more than $4.5 million in grants from Robert Wood Johnson over the last decade.

These grants amount to private funding for the executive branch of government — depriving the legislature of its constitutional authority over executive-branch spending. Indeed, such grants often allow executive agencies to embark on new programs without even bothering to tell the legislature. For example, a Robert Wood Johnson grant to the Boulder Police Department provided funding for ridiculously aggressive anti-drinking enforcement; students get arrested for just walking around campus under the influence of alcohol.

At least a quarter of a million dollars of RWJ money was earmarked for the immunization-registry program. Nationally, RWJ has spent more than $20 million dollars on immunization registries since 1991. Colorado and 22 other states already have programs to track immunizations. According to the Colorado Department of Health's own figures, 96% of Colorado children are immunized when they start school. Nationwide, in 1998, there was one probable diphtheria case, and 7,405 cases of whooping cough. The single case of polio was caused by the oral polio vaccine.

Given that the existing system works so well, why do we need a new one? The answer is that what Colorado doesn't have, and what the proponents of nationalized health care need, is a law letting the state collect and store individual health information on each of its citizens. To sneak such legislation past a population that has already said no to government-controlled health care, its proponents routinely disguise their proposals as measures designed to help immunize The Children.

The Colorado legislation would have extended the immunization registry to include all children under 18, authorized schools to provide "epidemiological information" to the state, and required that the state computerize the tracking system. Those marketing the registry claimed that schools have valuable information on immunization. In fact, Colorado law requires that students show proof of immunization before they attend school.

If schools obey the law, the mere fact that a child is in school demonstrates that his immunizations are up to date. Although schools have little information on immunization, they have a lot of information on other aspects of individual behavior that central planners would love to get their hands on. In common with those who have received Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants in other states, Colorado's health bureaucrats define health as mental, psychological, physical, and sociological health. With a definition this broad, "epidemiological information" includes virtually every detail of a person's life. Denver school-based "health" clinics created with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation money already track a student's sexual habits, whether his family owns a gun, whether his parents get along, and whether his friends obey the law. The proposed legislation contained no requirement that the data be destroyed after age 18, and no provision for opting out. Over time, the practical result would have been an individual dossier on everyone in the state. If this is "progress in public health," perhaps impeding it isn't such a bad idea after all.

To see where your state stands in the drive to create health dossiers via immunization registries, check the National Immunization Programs Survey of State Immunization Registry Legislation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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