Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 26, 2012

Healthcare as a national security issue

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Arnold Bogis on March 26, 2012

There is no escaping that the big news item this week will be that President Obama’s healthcare legislation is up for review at the Supreme Court.

I have my personal opinions about the law in question, but no legal expertise upon which to offer any serous analysis of the issues relevant to events this week.

Instead, I’ll leave it up to the lawyers at Lawfare to share this interesting perspective from everyone’s favorite homeland security author, Philip Bobbitt:

The consequence of these developments is that the healthcare of all persons living in America is bound together: the protection of every American is no stronger than the weakest protection of any American.  Yet the most frequent reason cited by persons who do not present themselves to hospitals for treatment is a lack of medical insurance.  Without such presentment, medical authorities are unable to accumulate the data necessary to warn of a biological attack in the timeliest way.  In the case of the anthrax attacks of 2001, the determining factor whether the victims lived or died was whether the treating physicians recognized the cause of infection.  Unalerted, many did not; their patients died.

Basically, as Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare notes, ““it can be persuasively shown that Congress could rationally have concluded that [the law] was an appropriate method of providing for the ‘common Defence … of the United States.”

So Obamacare need not depend on the Commerce Clause, but instead the fact that health care is in fact a national security issue.

I can’t argue that, never mind prove it.  But I do like the idea…

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 26, 2012 @ 2:06 am

Actually Arnold the so called Tax and Spend Cause of the Constitution, Article I Section 8 reads in part “. . .and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States, . . .” and it would be hard to argue that health is not basic to the general Welfare.

The Food Stamp program came out of WWII and was an attempt to deal with the almost 40% rejection rate for WWII draftees that were malnourished. That label was not specifically use. Instead the test was you had to weigh 100 pounds or more to joint up.

The Obama Administration perhaps a change in the nick of time that will save some of the nine SCOTUS members has given up reliance totally on the Commerce Clause and utilized other portions of the Constitution in defending OBAMACARE.

It is not impossible that the entirety of the case may be postponed for several years because of an obscure statute THE ANTI-INJUNCTIION ACT that SCOTUS asked separately for briefs upon since the parties argued it did not apply.

And perhaps in what some may think a strange prediction from me, I am beginning to think by 2050 or earlier HS and EM will largely be considered matters of PUBLIC HEALTH. So perhaps this new post-9/11 stovepipe that I have frequently labeled will be the STOVEPIPE and PUBLIC SAFETY efforts including police and fire will have been reduced in importance to HS and EM.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

March 26, 2012 @ 2:15 am

For some strange reason, I figured this particular post would be catnip for you sir…

Comment by Dan O'Connor

March 26, 2012 @ 8:04 am


I think it is harder to make an argument that health care it is not a national security issue than is. The challenge is framing the argument as part of a resilience/readiness campaign and using wellness care and preventive medical care, vice reactive care and purely a class/social/political issue.

Sustainability would require massive changes in food production, dietary guidelines, accepting the data for what it says, not what we’d like it to say, and changing behavior. For a country of such abundance, there is substantial evidence that we are over fed and undernourished.

Indeed, in the strictest sense of defining welfare, it could be argued that health, wellness, and fitness are motives for health care reform. But those are not the drivers of change. I think the lobbyists representing agribusiness and other foodstuff conglomerates in combination with overly “bureaucracratized” policies of the FDA and loopholes in current law are more detrimental to health care and readiness. Trying to remedy an already broken system with a price tag that hasn’t been realized yet and refusing to yield to the idea that our wellness or lack thereof is affected by our food, drug, water, and pollution policies is folly.

In the current generation and probably those to follow, there will be a decrease in revenue due to decrease in taxable employees with an increase in costs. This inverse proportion yields itself to one conclusion; unsustainability.

Perhaps in stead of pedantic arguing with no visible goals in mind, our National leadership might take an opportunity to realize we could affect our economic bottom-line with some preventative behavior modification instead of universal care that is not so universal and not particularly linked to health.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 26, 2012 @ 8:14 am

Just for the record, prior to 9/11/01 neither HHS or its CDC or other subordinate units, nor EPA, had what is called Original Classification Authority to classify documents from Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. Their holdings of classified docs was all through derivative classification. Now they have original classification authority to the level of SECRET.

The problem of course is that those familiar with Personnel Security and Document Security in the US Government often manipulate these systems for their own aggrandizement.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 30, 2012 @ 8:03 am

N.B. A number of the arguments on this case in SCOTUS have heavy implications for the administration of Homeland Security grants and other DHS programs. IMO of course.

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