The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act: An Assault on Civil Liberties in the Name of Homeland Security A number of people have asked me what health freedom could possibly have to do with homeland security. Let me assure you that there is a major connection. It's called the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act. Those who have heard of it are far outnumbered by those who have not. And, as proposed, the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act will impact our individual freedoms and civil liberties for years to come. A HIDDEN AGENDA In response to the tragedy of September 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its support for model legislation. The goal was to provide federal funds to states to encourage the enactment of legislation to prevent and detect bioterrorist attacks. Drafted for the Centers for Disease Control by academicians from the Center for Law and the Public's Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities, the so-called Model State Emergency Health Powers Act was released on October 23, 2001. It is noteworthy that a key attorney who assisted in drafting this proposal was also very involved in Hillary Clinton's health care task force nearly a decade ago. It is also significant that two articles related to this proposal were published or prepared well before the Trade Center attacks. In January 1999, in a Columbia Law Review article, a plan was presented for changing public health laws. A similar plan appeared in an American Journal of Public Health article, published coincidentally in September 2001, but accepted for publication in March 2001. It appears that this model legislation--formulated long before the terrorism of last fall--actually represents the promotion and expansion of a long-standing agenda. As these proposals come before the individual states, our elected officials should be aware of this history and examine carefully all proposals submitted to them. Although this model legislation was recommended as a means to help states protect citizens against bioterrorist attacks and deal with national defense issues, the draft bill goes much, much further. It calls for giving state public health officials broad, new police powers--all in the name of controlling epidemics of infectious diseases during public health emergencies. Furthermore, with an equally broad stroke, this model legislation defines "infectious disease" as "a disease caused by a living organism." As drafted, the October 23, 2001, proposal stresses that "an infectious disease may or may not be transmissible from person to person, animal to person or insect to person." Thus, any disease caused by a living organism could be classified as an infectious disease creating or invoking a public health emergency. It is these broad definitions--painted with an overly broad brush in equally broad language--that our state officials and our state-based think tanks must be alerted to, aware of, and involved in examining as similar bills advance on state legislative agendas. Key to all of this is what may or may not be considered or defined as a "public health emergency." A THREAT TO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS Under this legislative proposal, once a public health emergency is declared, governors and state public health authorities would be granted greatly expanded police powers. While a few other actions are enumerated, I want to bring to your attention 10 main powers conveyed into the hands of only a very few individuals by this model plan. Under the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, upon the declaration of a "public health emergency," governors and public health officials would be empowered to: 1. Force individuals suspected of harboring an "infectious disease" to undergo medical examinations. 2. Track and share an individual's personal health information, including genetic information. 3. Force persons to be vaccinated, treated, or quarantined for infectious diseases. 4. Mandate that all health care providers report all cases of persons who harbor any illness or health condition that may be caused by an epidemic or an infectious agent and might pose a "substantial risk" to a "significant number of people or cause a long-term disability." (Note: Neither "substantial risk" nor "significant number" are defined in the draft.) 5. Force pharmacists to report any unusual or any increased prescription rates that may be caused by epidemic diseases. 6. Preempt existing state laws, rules and regulations, including those relating to privacy, medical licensure, and--this is key--property rights. 7. Control public and private property during a public health emergency, including pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, nursing homes, other health care facilities, and communications devices. 8. Mobilize all or any part of the "organized militia into service to the state to help enforce the state's orders." 9. Ration firearms, explosives, food, fuel and alcoholic beverages, among other commodities. 10. Impose fines and penalties to enforce their orders.