We’ve been getting a lot of e-mail this past week over a section of ObamaCare that some believe creates a private health-care army for the President. On page 1312 of the health-care overhaul bill, language regarding the funding of something called the Ready Reserve Corps appears — but the very language should have tipped off readers that it’s nothing new. Here is Section 5210 in its entirety, emphasis mine:
SEC. 5210. ESTABLISHING A READY RESERVE CORPS.
Section 203 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 204) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘SEC. 203. COMMISSIONED CORPS AND READY RESERVE CORPS.
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—There shall be in the Service a commissioned Regular Corps and a Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency.
‘‘(2) REQUIREMENT.—All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws and compensated without regard to the Classification Act of 1923, as amended.
‘‘(3) APPOINTMENT.—Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall be appointed by the President and commissioned officers of the Regular Corps shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
‘‘(4) ACTIVE DUTY.—Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall at all times be subject to call to active duty by the Surgeon General, including active duty for the purpose of training.
‘‘(5) WARRANT OFFICERS.—Warrant officers may be appointed to the Service for the purpose of providing support to the health and delivery systems maintained by the Service and any warrant officer appointed to the Service shall be considered for purposes of this Act and title 37, United States Code, to be a commissioned officer within the Commissioned Corps of the Service.
‘‘(b) ASSIMILATING RESERVE CORP OFFICERS INTO THE REGULAR CORPS.—Effective on the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all individuals classified as officers in the Reserve Corps under this section (as such section existed on the day before the date of enactment of such Act) and serving on active duty shall be deemed to be commissioned officers of the Regular Corps.
‘‘(c) PURPOSE AND USE OF READY RESEARCH.—
‘‘(1) PURPOSE.—The purpose of the Ready Reserve Corps is to fulfill the need to have additional Commissioned Corps personnel available on short notice (similar to the uniformed service’s reserve program) to assist regular Commissioned Corps personnel to meet both routine public health and emergency response missions.
‘‘(2) USES.—The Ready Reserve Corps shall—
‘‘(A) participate in routine training to meet the general and specific needs of the Commissioned Corps;
‘‘(B) be available and ready for involuntary calls to active duty during national emergencies and public health crises, similar to the uniformed service reserve personnel;
‘‘(C) be available for backfilling critical positions left vacant during deployment of active duty Commissioned Corps members, as well as for deployment to respond to public health emergencies, both foreign and domestic; and
‘‘(D) be available for service assignment in isolated, hardship, and medically underserved communities (as defined in section 799B) to improve access to health services.
“(d) FUNDING.—For the purpose of carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the Commissioned Corps under this section, there are authorized to be appropriated $5,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for recruitment and training and $12,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for the Ready Reserve Corps.’’.
The phrase “is amended” should have alerted readers that this section already exists in law — and actually has existed for over 60 years. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson restructured the Ready Reserve Corps by executive order as a deployable response team reporting to the Surgeon General for disaster relief. Actually, that EO appears not to have created the RRC but merely to have codified its chain of command under the Surgeon General. According to Findlaw, the relevant statute creating the RRC originated in 1944, during World War II, and has been repeatedly modified since, reorganized in 1949, 1966, and 1993.
This section of ObamaCare modifies it yet again, mainly in terms of funding. It’s not a great surprise that a bill that seeks to increase the federal government’s role in health care would also seek to expand or at least redefine its emergency response agencies. Even if this was a “private health-care army,” though, it would be a woefully underfunded one with a $12.5 million annual budget. The state of Minnesota alone will spend $1.8 billion on public safety in its biennial budget, with a good portion of that on law enforcement.
This bill has a multitude of problems, but a ‘private health-care army’ isn’t one of them.