There have been times that healthcare reform did not appear to have a prayer, so in that sense it is appropriate that prayer as a medical treatment is being considered in the Senate version of the healthcare bill.
The House stripped it from its bill because of Constitutional concerns. However, Senators John Kerry and Orrin Hatch are seeking to insert it into the Senate version. Specifically, it covers Christian Science prayer treatments.
“I offered this amendment because I believe that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, should have access to healthcare,” Hatch said.
It is not that the treatments are expensive, about $20-$40 a day, but including prayer as an acceptable medical treatment opens a slew of potential problems.
First of all, there is the Constitutional concern of church and state. The IRS has already partially opened this can of worms by allowing prayer treatments as recognized medical deductions. However, the IRS is not a medical organization and is only seeks to weed out illegitimate expenses. Someone can have a palm-reading business and take deductions for hand sanitizers, but that does not mean the IRS is giving a thumbs up to palm readers.
Hopefully, if the IRS is giving medical deductions for prayer, bloodletting and color therapy are included as well.
A bigger concern is the door this opens to other religions. Advocates of creating a spiritual component to health care have been working on this for some time. Their hope is that by developing billing codes to process these medical treatments a range of spiritual options will become available, from Christian Science prayer to Indian shamanism.
Pediatrician and medical ethicist Norman Fost explained that adding prayer as a medical treatment goes against the entire idea of controlling costs.
“They want a special exception for people who use unproved treatments, and they also want to get paid for it. They want people who use prayer to have it just automatically accepted as a legitimate therapy,” Fost said.
Some proponents even contend that “doctors shouldn’t be managing non-critical care.”
No one is proposing that shamans and witchdoctors provide health care in this bill, but if the Christian Scientists can get prayer care paid, how can a person who wants an Indian shaman be denied equal treatment in the eyes of the law?
So just what is Christian Science prayer medical care?
Phil Davis, a senior official of the Christian Science Church explains.
“We’ll talk to them about their relationship to God. We’ll talk to them about citations or biblical passages they might study. We refer to it as treatment. It’s an affirmation of their relationship with God, and the understanding that comes from their prayer, of their relationship with God.”
That is just fine. If someone wants that treatment, it is an individual choice, and it might make a difference through the placebo effect or divine intervention. But, really, should the government pay $40 for this?
These religions are already getting significant tax breaks as non-profits. With that they should just offer these services free to their members anyway. Why does the government have to intervene to pay God’s representatives to heal the sick?
It seems that I recall a fellow wandering around Galilee a couple of thousand of years ago who healed the sick and did not ask Cesar to render payment.
A lot of health insurance companies pay for prayer treatments now. If they want to pay for these services on their own, let them pay. The government does not need to stop that.
Contrary to the propaganda of the Christian Science Church, failure to include prayer in the health care bill is not discrimination against spiritual care. It simply holds all medical care to the same standard. It must be verifiably proven to bring benefits greater than what a placebo procedure would do.
Hopefully, the Senators can figure out that doctors should provide medical care for the sick, and religions spiritual care for the soul and not mix the two up.