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.