Of all the crazy things to be included in the healthcare reform proposals, this one may be the craziest. It’s so crazy, I had to check it out to be sure it was true … and it seems to be genuine (unlike Sarah Palin’s famously false “death panels” scaremongering). The Los Angeles Times reports that prayer treatments may be included in universal healthcare:
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.”
That’s right folks. Prayer could be funded as a treatment (or rather, more accurately, as a substitute for treatment). Of course, Christian Scientists* are thrilled and have no idea why anyone would object:
Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
Of course, clinical studies of prayer as a medical treatment show it to be anything but “an effective alternative” … but hey, when you’re a religionist, little things like “facts” hardly ought to get in your way. The story goes on to point out other problems with this:
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and agnostics that promotes separation of church and state, said the opportunity to receive payment for spiritual care could encourage other groups to seek similar status.
The problem is not solely limited to religion. It could be used to force the government to reimburse for any unproven treatment; all someone has to do is set themselves up as a religion (even if it isn’t really one), make the treatment — whatever it is — a basic tenet of the (phony) “faith,” and force the government to pay for it.
Nice going, Senator Hatch. Every kook and oddball with some goofy idea for a medical “treatment” is going to declare him- or herself the “prophet” of a new religion and force government to pay for it … based on your precedent.
Note: Despite the name of their church, there is nothing “scientific” about Christian Science. It is not a “science,” it’s a religion. Period.
Hat tip: Religion Dispatches blog.Tags: alternative medicine, christian science, christian scientist, healthcare, healthcare reform, orrin hatch, prayer, prayer treatment, universal healthcare