Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare." [...]
About 90 years ago, private insurance companies began paying for Christian Science prayer treatments, but more recently, managed-care insurers declined reimbursements, insisting on paying for care that produced proven medical results.
The Internal Revenue Service allows the cost of the prayer sessions to be counted among itemized medical expenses for income tax purposes -- one of the only religious treatments explicitly identified as deductible by the IRS. Some federal medical insurance programs, including those for military families, also reimburse for prayer treatment. [...]
Dr. Norman Fost, a pediatrician and medical ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, said the measure went against the goal of reducing healthcare costs by improving evidence-based medical practices. "They want a special exception for people who use unproved treatments, and they also want to get paid for it," he said. "They want people who use prayer to have it just automatically accepted as a legitimate therapy."
Healthcare provision seeks to embrace prayer treatments
Current Music: Recoil -- Faith Healer ♬