White Coat Underground

The mainstream media is finally catching on to a disturbing story–the insertion of faith-healing and other non-scientific practices into health care reform. Health bloggers have been on this story for a while, showing us that Senate Bill 1679 currently contains language that would require support for faith healing practices:

The essential benefits provided for in subparagraph (A) shall include a requirement that there be non-discrimination in health care in a manner that, with respect to an individual who is eligible for medical or surgical care under a qualified health plan offered through a Gateway, prohibits the Administrator of the Gateway, or a qualified health plan offered through the Gateway, from denying such individual benefits for religious or spiritual health care, except that such religious or spiritual health care shall be an expense eligible for deduction as a medical care expense as determined by Internal Revenue Service Rulings interpreting section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as of January 1, 2009.

This, and other language, would protect such services as Christian Science healing as valid, reimbursable medical practices. Why should anyone have a problem with that?

As I pointed out previously, it takes away important resources needed for real medical practices, and my violate the Constitution. But there are more important ethical reasons to be cautious about such language.

Religious healing practices are nonsense. They are not based on science but on mystical, vitalistic nonsense, and while one cannot object to people doing it on their own dime, to give these practices the same legitimacy as, say, blood pressure monitoring and treatment is unconscionable and immoral. When the government decides to require that faith healing be treated like any other modality, it lends legitimacy to useless and often harmful practices. How are we to protect children from their deluded parents if health insurance actually pays for neglect?

We cannot allow codification of faith healing and child neglect. This is a deal-breaker. It is not impossible to believe that if this language were retained, we could see homeopathic hospitals and Scientology psychiatry wards.

Comments

  1. #1 megaangryman
    November 3, 2009

    as the scientologists are well up on tax laws and tax breaks. it wouldn’t surprise me if they were behind this in the first place

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 3, 2009

    Shhhhh… [we don't care about this. those kind of healing techniques are dirt cheap. but on average the recipients make the same contribution into the pool. instead of stopping this, just add another provision: if you use woo, there is a one year waiting period before you can have non-woo medical procedures covered.]

    By the way, PAL, can you have a look at this and tell me what to do???? Thanks.

  3. #3 mxh
    November 3, 2009

    Greg, I suppose that we could ignore it for the greater good, but things like this, once inserted into law, have a tendency to stay forever. If people start abusing it, it’ll be much harder to remove it (no sitting congressperson will want to look like their against religion). What’s really bad is that I’m sure you can’t sue faith healers for malpractice if the patient/idiot dies.

  4. #4 AnonLover
    November 3, 2009

    Bravo PalMD! Very conces writeup, thankyou.

    The anti-scientology activists have been beating this drum for a few weeks now, and writing our congress critters like crazy. But most of the responses we are getting back are either ambivalent to the issue of state funded snake oil quackery, or totally in support of it. Which is mind boggling in light of how money the pharmaceutical companies pump into the campaign coffers.

    We’re also at an impasse with the House bill for healthcare reform at this time because there’s conflicting information and versions floating around. Thus when we try to target that side of Capitol, we always get a denial type response – thats not in our bill. So any insights you could offer on relevant parts of the correct house bill that needs targeted for complaints of the same nature would be much appreciated.

  5. #5 The Blind Watchmaker
    November 3, 2009

    First Amendment, Dude. First Amendment.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 3, 2009

    Blind Watchmaker: I can see where the 1st amendment could work in a number of ways here. Are you referring to the idea that the Establishment Clause makes it impossible for the government to come down on the side of a particular woo, or are you referring to the idea that anybody’s woo is their right and thus they can not be excluded at the gate in a piece of gate keeping legislation?

  7. #7 Shay
    November 3, 2009

    But don’t most Scientologists belong in psych wards anyway?

  8. #8 Uncle Glenny
    November 3, 2009

    But don’t most Scientologists belong in psych wards anyway?

    The Blue Cross/Scientology health policy probably doesn’t cover antipsychotic medication.

  9. #9 Phil
    November 3, 2009

    Well said bro!
    Imagine the next step. Your private health insurance decides to stop paying for your chemo and sends you to a faith healer because it’s cheaper.

  10. #10 Uncle Glenny
    November 3, 2009

    I could imagine that happening for certain things – having to go through acupuncture or chiropractic first before being cleared to see an orthopedist for, say, lower back pain.

  11. #11 Yukon
    November 4, 2009

    Actually chiropractic has as good a record on lower back pain relief as “scientific” treatments. My insurance refused to pay for it however, even though I was subsequently successfully treated at my own expense. Yet they would have gladly paid for an MRI etc, even though the “scientific” treatments have no better track record, and the diagnostic techniques are now recognized as opening a can of worms.

  12. #12 ab
    November 4, 2009

    Scientology is not Christian Science.

  13. #13 Jen
    November 4, 2009

    The news is out:
    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2009/11/03/Healthcare-provision-would-embrace-prayer/UPI-57781257269496/

    http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/orrin-hatch-puts-christian-science-tr
    Quote:
    It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill — Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.
    Can you say “Scientology”? I knew you could!

    http://rawstory.com/2009/11/democrats-healthcare-bill-pay-prayer-treatment/

    http://www.detnews.com/article/20091103/OPINION01/911030315/1008/opinion01/Only-pay-for-health-care-that-works

  14. #14 jen
    November 4, 2009

    Frankly, I object to the government subsizing (in the form of government-subsidized insurance) private religious practices – including being prayed over by a member of your religion, whether it’s a family member, a pastor, or a stranger who calls himself your physician.

    Are we going to start paying mothers for goodnight prayers, now?

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    November 4, 2009

    This provision deeply disturbs me. Never mind the establishment clause; Medicare should not be reimbursing for non-FDA-approved treatments.

    Once faith healing undergoes the proper scientific trials, I will support reimbursement for that. Until then, it’s indistinguishable from yet another con-job, and it would only aggravate the funding problem that already threatens Medicare. Inefficiency and waste is a monumental problem in that agency; paying for faith healing would just be more waste.

    Uncle Glenny:

    I could imagine that happening for certain things – having to go through acupuncture or chiropractic first before being cleared to see an orthopedist for, say, lower back pain.

    That’s basically was Mao Zedong did in China. Acupuncture was cheap and far more widely available in the vast, agrarian hinterlands of China. So to make good on promises to assure medical care for everyone, he basically declared that acupuncture worked (and arranged for the “studies” which would prove it). He knew perfectly well that modern medicine (“Western” or otherwise) was vastly superior, and that acupuncture did little or nothing. But it did do one thing for him, and that was to tick off the little box labeled “universal health care” without having to go to the expense of building a complete health care infrastructure from the ground up in places which didn’t even have running water or electricity yet.

    In America, of course, we’ve got a good health care infrastructure, so we lack Mao Zedong’s rather shaky excuse. If Medicare reimburses for acupuncture, it isn’t because there aren’t alternatives. It’s because certain lobbyists have been successful in getting it funded, and the only real effect is to delay pursuit of effective treatment. And when you delay effective treatment, there is a very real risk of the disease getting worse, causing the ultimate treatment to cost a great deal more.

    This is why few insurers will pay for alternative medicine. They realize that it’s actually not cheaper to pay for alternative medicine before trying real medicine. Note: I do acknowledge that chiropractic can be beneficial in treatment of uncomplicated lower back pain, a problem which afflicts a large percentage of our population. I think it’s legitimate for insurers and Medicare to pay for that. But is it best to pay for ten years of chiro or six months of physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that were causing the problem in the first place? And then there are the chiropractors who treat things outside that scope. It is absolutely inappropriate, IMHO, for Medicare to reimburse a chiropractor for adjustments to treat asthma, GERD, autism, etc, because that’s just wasted money that delays treatment. (Prompt treatment of an asthma attack, for instance, may cost $250 or so for the doctor’s visit plus $10 for meds, with not more than a day off work. Delayed treatment could cost $50,000 for an ER visit followed by a hospital stay and weeks off work to recuperate.)

  16. #16 Yukon
    November 4, 2009

    Calli, Chiro and physical therapy are not mutually exclusive. Exercise to improve strength and balance is an important part of chiropractic treatment. Nearly every adult has “something” that can be detected by an MRI, but it is impossible to know if what is detected has anything to do with the pain. This often leads to unnecessary surgery. There are major, wasteful problems related to “scientific” treatments. No, not just a few kinks to work out, major problems that go largely unacknowledged here. How about the crazy practice of cementing old ladies bones as a treatment for osteoporosis, now considered worthless, but still a common “scientific” treatment.

  17. #17 Sam Oliver
    November 5, 2009

    How a Miracle Happens

    A Miracle is Energy In Formation. Anything you hold your attention on over time is energy in formation. We are transformed by what we hold dear to us and fill our heart with the experience of what we desire. This intent to dwell upon what we hold sacred is our soul. And thus, the miracle of transformation that occurs from this spatial quality of existence creates a manifestation from the formless into form.
    Sam Oliver, author of, “The Path into Healing”

  18. #18 PalMD
    November 5, 2009

    @Sam:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! That’s a good one!

  19. #19 Michael Simpson
    November 5, 2009

    @ Sam

    I didn’t know this was open mike night at the Improv. That was funny.

  20. #20 joe
    November 5, 2009

    get used to it dr. lipton, government health care will be messed up like everything else the government does.

  21. #21 Christina
    April 5, 2010

    Am I the only person who has no idea what the quoted passage means? It is certainly not at all clear to me that this passage means what the original arhor claims it to mean. Also, the people commenting act as if the meaning is clear. What’s up with this?