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Essential Benefit Missing from Health Care Reform Law

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Although most provisions in President Obama’s year-old health care reform law won’t kick in until 2014, a number of changes have already taken place such as tax credits for employers, free preventative services for people on Medicare, and a provision that allows for anyone up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health plan.

But something very important is still missing.

The law includes no provision for religious nonmedical care, including those services provided by Christian Science practitioners and nurses, both of which are available to the general public and are in no way subsidized by the Christian Science Church. This, despite the fact these services have been accommodated for years in other government-run programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

How is it that something provided for so long to the elderly, the impoverished, and the government-employed is not being afforded to everyone else in the middle – those who in just a few years will be required to purchase insurance that likely will not include this benefit, or face a stiff financial penalty?

That just doesn’t seem right.

To be fair, Congress has built in a little wiggle room in terms of the implementation of this new law, which says that “a State may require that a qualified health plan offered in such State offer benefits in addition to the essential health benefits specified (by the federal government).” The only caveat here is that the State would have to cover any added costs.

capitolApparently this isn’t an insurmountable hurdle. Here in California, the Legislature is considering at least 15 bills that would impose coverage requirements for health insurers that would likely go beyond any federal mandates. This would include coverage for things like acupuncture, mammographies, maternity care, tobacco cessation drugs, medically necessary autism treatment, and expanded mental disorder diagnoses.

Religious nonmedical care deserves the same consideration.

For generations those who have relied on Christian Science for their health care have been cured of everything from minor injuries to more serious, life-threatening diseases, many of them medically diagnosed. Failure to accommodate this proven system of care would not only disregard a significant historic precedent, it would effectively disenfranchise those who have found this type of prayer-based treatment to be a safe and reliable means of treating physical ailments.

Understandably, the private health insurance industry has some concern about benefit mandates. However, as with the aforementioned government programs, Christian Science care and treatment has been successfully accommodated by private insurers for over 90 years. Clearly they recognize the importance of offering their customers options when it comes to their choice of treatment.

Honoring the individual’s ability to discern and determine what’s best for them – to provide coverage for whatever responsible form of health care they’ve found to be most effective – makes sense for everyone. Not only does it benefit the individual in need but our health care system as a whole.

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About Eric Nelson

  • Nick

    Christian Scientists around the world are living Christian Science day by day in ways that fundamentally affect their lives.

  • Michael

    Surely if Christian Science is so effecaious it could be a great help in dealing with problems such as the reactor trouble in Japan. Perhaps a “Practioners without Froniers” could be organized to go into areas that non Christian Scientists mistakenly believe are harmful and help contain the radiation leak. Do that sucessfully and you wouldn’t be able to build churches fast enough instead of closing down an average of 25 a year in the US alone.

  • Michael

    No medical treatments should be accepted unless it has been verified by double blind clinical trials. Humans are too good at deceiving themselves and finding patterns where there are none. Science strived to keep you from fooling yourself. What safeguards are in place with Christian Science? If you don’t seek to falsify it, only confirm it, it’s not a science, it’s just another of the 1000’s of religions.

  • Barbara

    Critics of spiritual healing are obviously lacking in information. Check out the Harvard Medical School seminars on this tipic, as well as books by Dossey, M.D. As a Christian Scientist in my 7th decade, I have found the Science of Chrisitanity to be effective in all ways. Also, spiritual healing is not limited to Christian Science, but is found in other Christian religions. CS has the only authenticated track record for over 100 years that I know of.

  • Desert Rat

    why bother having the surgery in the first place? Should be all or nothing

  • zingzing

    your friend scott is a lizard.

  • JoeCap

    zingzing – well, it’s not a comic book and it’s not quite like Logan (Woolverine in X-men for those who were wondering.) The example that comes to mind is my friend Scott who grew back 3/4 inch of his thumb that was cut off in a work accident with a table saw. It was well documented with photographs since it was a work related accident and he was required to go to the hospital where all they could do was clean and bandage it. After meeting the medical requirement for his workplace, he turned to Christian Science.

    The outcome – perfectly complete healing of his thumb in about a week or so. By the way, the doctors and workers compensation insurance wouldn’t believe it, so they insisted on paying him for this permanent disability. He tried to return the money, but they would not take it.

    The point for this discussion was that the prayerful process Scott used required support – three days in a Christian Science nursing facility, the prayerful support of a Christian Science practitioner, and night and day uninterrupted study for Scott.

    Christian Science is a system available to anyone and it offers outcomes considered impossible to materially based medicine.

    So here’s the question: Should the practical support necessary to bring about this kind of healing be supported or discriminated against?

  • zingzing

    how is a broken toe healed overnight? are we getting into comic book territory here? got a little logan at home?

  • Joan M.

    This is a great discussion! As a life-long Christian Scientist who has raised three children (along with a non-religious husband) to healthy adulthood without a single medication, I can only say that in our family we experienced overnight healing of a broken toe, overnight healing of poison oak rash that covered our son’s entire face and neck, an overnight (and permanent for the last 25 years) healing of a painful infection, healing of a doctor-diagnosed impetigo of two of our children, healing of doctor-diagnosed curved spine. And then there are the intangible healings of things like heartache, fear, indecision. I too could go on and on. But to all of these healings I must add the most life-changing side effect of each of these experiences ~ the absolute trust that none of us is never without recourse to a loving healing God.

  • Obviously I don’t have enough information to determine the cause of your friend’s speedy recovery. However, I do have two observations:

    1. It’s difficult or impossible for a doctor to give an accurate long-term prognosis in the immediate aftermath of an injury. Often the injury turns out not to be as serious as was first feared. Nevertheless, most doctors prefer to err on the side of caution, which is probably what they did here.

    2. I would imagine that at the very least, Susan’s neck would have been put in a collar or brace, either by the paramedics at the scene of the accident or later in the ER. This would have immobilized the broken bones and may well have provided the conditions which enabled them to set and knit.

  • Thanks for your comment “Dr. Dreadful.” I like your suggestion re. tracking rate of remission among those receiving Christian Science treatment.

    To your first point, one story that I will share is about my friend, Susan. She was in a serious car accident and taken to the hospital. X-rays showed that she had broken her neck in 2 places. Doctors said she need to have immediate surgery and likely would be in recovery for months. She chose to be transferred to a nearby Christian Science nursing facility where she received basic physical care and assistance (no medical care) as well as treatment from a Christian Science practitioner. One month later she was jogging again.

    I’m fairly certain that the term “spontaneous remission” does not apply to physical injuries. What I do know is that this woman recovered completely without the use of conventional medicine.

    One last point: In this discussion, I’ve failed to make it clear that Christian Science is in no way “at odds” with the medical profession. The Christian Scientists I know don’t “hate doctors” The Church does not dictate the health care decisions of its members nor does the theology of Christian Science teach that you’ll be damned if you seek medical attention.

    Christian Science and conventional medicine are simply two different ways of achieving the same goal. I might add, however, that one of the added benefits of Christian Science treatment is the mental, moral, and spiritual transformation that inevitably takes place.

  • Spontaneous remissions do happen. I strongly suspect that many of those claiming to have been cured through Christian Science actually also received conventional medical treatment, and merely chose to attribute their healing to the former rather than the latter.

    What would be convincing is evidence (and by evidence I mean numbers, not just anecdotes) showing that the rate of remission among those treated by Christian Science practitioners is greater than can be accounted for by the placebo effect and simple chance.

  • I appreciate your “pushing me” to provide a better response to your comments, Christopher. The healings I’ve described are indeed repeatable and not at all random. Time and again I’ve experienced, and witnessed in others, similar sorts of healing. As for “the processes at work,” a complete explanation would require more than this small “comment window” affords. I might recommend, however, checking out the Christian Science textbook “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy for a complete explanation of this system of healing.

    I would add that I make a distinction between experiencing, explaining, and fully understanding the process by which healing is effected utilizing Christian Science. I’ve experienced quite a number of healings that I can’t explain completely (or, perhaps, adequately) to others. And the understanding part comes only incrementally, as it does in one’s study of any science. But what I’ve seen so far tells me that there’s something to this system of healing and I intend to persist in my efforts to understand it even better.

  • I still don’t see any practical understanding, just some random, non-repeatable unexplained anecdotes nor any reliable explanation of the processes at work…

  • Re. Christopher Rose comment…

    Thanks for the follow up comment. I realize that the story I shared about myself may have spoken more to the practical understanding of my parents and the practitioner involved. I should have mentioned that on quite a number of occasions over many years I’ve found that my own prayers – basically exchanging a limited, material view of things for what I consider a divinely inspired, spiritual view – has also brought physical healing, both for myself and others who have asked me for prayer-based treatment. To me, moving beyond what one simply believes and seeing practical, tangible results like this is absolutely essential.

  • Those are stories, not practical understanding, nor are they necessarily supportive of your position.

  • Re. Christopher Rose’s comment…

    Yes. When I was 15 years old I was in a serious accident and suffered multiple injuries. After being taken to a hospital, I was diagnosed by a team of doctors as having internal bleeding and was scheduled to have emergency surgery. At this time my parents were working with a Christian Science practitioner who was providing prayer-based treatment. After the surgery, the doctors met with my parents and said (paraphrasing) “Someone must have gotten in there before us because we could find no evidence of internal bleeding.” The doctors had no idea why this happened. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen or that the prayers of my parents and the treatment provided by the practitioner had nothing to do with it.

    I’ve had many close friends as well who have demonstrated the practicality of gaining a more spiritually based understanding of themselves. One friend was healed of stomach cancer over 20 years ago through prayer alone, even though doctors had diagnosed her condition as untreatable. Another friend spent months in a hospital in a coma with a debilitating disease. Once she revived, she asked to be transferred to a Christian Science nursing facility where she was completely cured of the disease and all after effects of having been in a coma for so long (memory and speech problems, etc.). Shortly thereafter she graduated with a triple major and is now a top executive at a multi-billion dollar company.

    I could go on and on… but this should give you some idea. Thanks for asking.

  • Can you demonstrate some practical understanding of this then?

  • Re. Ms. Swan’s comment…

    I’ll be the first to admit that the medical profession as a whole has yet to come up with a way to adequately describe how and why healing happens in Christian Science, or to provide sufficient data to support this claim. But this does not mean that it’s not valid or that there’s not ample and undeniable evidence that this healing method works. I would no more ask a plumber or an electrician or a computer programmer to validate the claims of a doctor than I would ask a doctor to give his seal of approval to a healing system he does not employ or fully understand. This is no slight to the medical profession – simply a recognition of the fact that one must have some practical understanding of a subject in order to adequately assess its validity – not to mention its value to the individual who has been healed.

  • The Christian Science church has no credible data that it heals disease, taxpayers should not have to subsidize the bills Christian Science practitioners send for their prayers, and the government should not require insurance companies to reimburse for them.
    Today I believe only a handful of private insurance companies reimburse the bills of the Christian Science practitioners. That may be why the church is now trying so hard to get state and federal governments to enact prayer-fee mandates.

  • I’ll do my best to reply to to some of the comments left so far about my article…

    What is religious nonmedical care? In the context of Christian Science, it’s two things: First it’s a service provided by practitioners who have been trained in the healing arts to assist those who choose to rely on spiritual means for their health care ?” those who recognize that disease is mental in nature and that by gaining a better understanding of their relationship to God they can be (and have been!) cured. Second, it’s basic physical care (feeding, washing, basic ambulatory assistance, etc.) provided by trained Christian Science nurses who not only take care of one’s physical needs but also provide a supportive environment conducive this type of spiritually based healing method.

    By providing some level of coverage for these services, the government is in no way endorsing a particular religion. Rather, they are honoring the individual’s ability to choose the type of care they’ve found to be the most effective. I should add that these type of government provisions have been vetted a number of times over the last 50+ years and have been deemed to be Constitutionally sound.

    One last note… yes, religious nonmedical care includes more than just Christian Science but other holistic and traditional (e.g. Native American) health care practices.

  • Clavos

    Just wait until the rest of you are mandated to carry the same shitty coverage as those of us with awesome govt healthcare!!

    Bears repeating.

  • Wouldn’t honoring religious “medical” treatments go against the first amendment?

    And I’m really tired of people pretending that Tricare is somethig special! There are plenty of things that Obamacare mandates and NONE of them apply to Tricare! I have 2 daughters, one 25 and one 21 and NEITHER one of them is on my Tricare insurance because Tricare was exempted from that really great provision that mandates that all other insurance companies cover your kids until they’re 26.
    Tricare sends my wife more than an hour away sometimes for treatments. And it’s not like those same treatments aren’t available in the largest city in Virginia, it’s because like Medicare and Medicaid, many doctors are refusing to accept these forms of health insurance.

    Just wait until the rest of you are mandated to carry the same shitty coverage as those of us with awesome govt healthcare!!

  • Cannonshop

    #1 I think they’re talking about doctors who perform circumcisions, it’s the only “Religious” non-medical health care I can imagine the Feds actually being willing to legitimize, though I suppose certain communities that practice herbal or holistic medicine might fall into the range too-as a cultural sensitivity thing.

  • zingzing

    what, exactly, is “religion non-medical healthcare?”

    right now it seems to me like paying people to pray for you.

    please tell me that’s not what it is.

  • Thank you for making me aware of this. Can you tell me where and in what form “religious non-medical healthcare” is being paid for with tax dollars? I’d like to get it stopped immediately. And if you can provide me with information on practitioners, perhaps we can get them arrested for fraud and manslaughter.