Monday, August 19, 2013

HHS Regulation Suspends 4th Amendment

The US Department of Health and Human Services has, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA also called "Obamacare"), decided it can suspend the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The regulation grants state-level agencies permission to conduct "inspections" without a warrant on "high risk" families or households. It goes further to allocate funds to states with effective inspection plans. The program is called "MIHOPE".

The regulations make no provisions for warrants. They indicate that agencies, such as state and local Child Protective Agencies and state-level Health Departments, need only establish a program that identifies households that qualify as "high risk", per the HHS definitions, and establish a program to conduct inspections on these homes.

The program, grants, and regulation find their basis in the PPACA and HRSA-12-156.

The purpose of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Competitive Grant program is to award Development Grants to States that currently have modest home visiting programs and want to build on existing efforts. Successful applicants will sufficiently demonstrate the capacity to expand or enhance their evidence-based home visiting programs. The funding provided will build on the formula funding already provided to States and territories to support the quality implementation of home visiting programs.

The 4th Amendment protects private property, liberty and life by prohibiting the search and/or seizure of persons or private property unless enough evidence of a crime exists. That evidence needs to present a reasonable probability of further evidence of a crime and be part of an investigation naming that specific person. A warrant needs to be precise, stating for what and where authorities are permitted search. For example, if a person is suspected of shooting somebody with a sniper rifle, the authorities cannot search a jewelry box or a sock drawer for a rifle that won't fit in there.

Here is a list of states and programs that have already received grants for these programs.  Texas received over $10M with the state-level DHHS receiving an additional $3.3M. Arizona received over $2M while the Phoenix, AZ office received an additional $9.4M for their local programs.

 Are You A "High Risk" Household?

The criteria seem broad and encompassing. Here they are:

Priority for Serving High-Risk Populations and Programmatic Areas of Emphasis
As directed in the legislation2, successful applicants will give priority to providing services to the following populations:
a) Eligible families who reside in communities in need of such services, as identified in the statewide needs assessment required under subsection (b)(1)(A).
b) Low-income eligible families.
c) Eligible families who are pregnant women who have not attained age 21.
d) Eligible families that have a history of child abuse or neglect or have had interactions with child welfare services.
e) Eligible families that have a history of substance abuse or need substance abuse treatment.
f) Eligible families that have users of tobacco products in the home.
g) Eligible families that are or have children with low student achievement.
h) Eligible families with children with developmental delays or disabilities.
i) Eligible families who, or that include individuals who, are serving or formerly served in the Armed Forces, including such families that have members of the Armed Forces who have had multiple deployments outside of the United States.”

Other aggravating factors that increase the "household risk level" include firearms in the home. For example, a military veteran who has been issued a concealed handgun license falls into the eligibility requirements. The CHL provides an "evidential basis" (or excuse) to inspect (search without a warrant). 

Fuel for your lawnmower, sinks, scissors, steak knives, bath tubs, showers, and electrical appliances are also considered "aggravating hazards".

Raised In A 'High Risk' Household

According to the US HHS, I was a "high risk" youth. My father served in the US Marine Corps including fighting in the Vietnam War. My mother smoked cigarettes. My father not only owned firearms, he part-owned a business that was licensed to sell firearms. My mother was pregnant with me before her 21st birthday (though my parents were married). Physically, I was a "late bloomer", therefore I had a "developmental delay". (I had my greatest growth spurt between 8th grade and my freshman year of high school, jumping from 4'10 to well over 5' and gaining about 30lbs to break 100lbs). My father hit a rough spot and was unemployed for a few months in the early 80s. (We got by without food stamps).

My brother and I must have continued  this evil cycle. My brother is the loving father of three rambunctious boys. He has a great wife. My brother and his wife used to smoke. My brother served, honorably, in the US Navy. He owns a firearm for home protection. He has scissors in his house. He has three bathrooms all with sinks. He cuts his steak with a serrated knife. He cooks on a gas grill.

I spent a career of 24 years in the US Army, including 4 or so years in the National Guard. I owned my first .22cal rim-fire rifle at age 13. (I was taught at a young age about gun safety, maintenance, and marksmanship). I still own firearms (what type does not matter). I own multiple pairs of scissors including ones reserved just for kitchen use, around food. We have a two bathroom house. I have a gas grill. I have a gas-powered lawnmower with an internal combustion engine. I have a nice cigar collection (tobacco), and I smoke. My wife is a military veteran. She used to smoke tobacco. She holds a CHL.

All of our kids are being raised to be responsible. All are kept reasonably safe. All are protected. 

The irony here is that there are families that fall under far fewer of the "eligibility criteria" who have had multiple CPS cases against them. The families either do not own firearms or have some ideological aversion to them. CPS found the claims "unsubstantiated" or "inconclusive". Kids ended up hospitalized or killed. Perhaps their criteria are a bit skewed.