Christian Science and Health Reform

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The Los Angeles Times draws attention to news that, as part of the health-care overhaul, "A little-noticed measure would put Christian Science healing sessions on the same footing as clinical medicine."

The provision does not single out Christian Science, but instead requires insurance to consider coverage of "religious and spiritual healthcare."

The approach was approved by two House committees, but because of church-state concerns, government funded prayer treatments were not included in the Speaker Pelosi's bill unveiled last week. If those legal issues can be resolved, however, bipartisan proponents including Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) and John Kerry (D-MA, which is home to the Christian Science "mother church" headquarters in Boston) may seek to get it into a Senate bill and ultimately, into any final legislation that may pass, when differences in the House and Senate bills are resolved.

Tax dollars are already paying to promote unscientific medical treatments. Consider the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCCAM). Created at the behest of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the federal unit has already spent more than $100 million to study non scientific treatments, and, it turns out, finding out that such treatments don't work. Senator Harkin, at a hearing earlier this year, admitted as much, when complaining, "One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. I think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving."

He got the center he wanted, they did the studies, and they found that this stuff doesn't work.

The Wall Street Journal sheds some light on the issue in an article about how people are looking to homeopathic and alternative "cures" for H1N1. The Journal reports that "According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there's little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition. The NCCAM notes that studying homeopathy is difficult because 'its key concepts are not consistent with the current understanding of science, particularly chemistry and physics.'"

If individuals want to spend their money on "alternative medicine," or if insurers want to push patients into it because it's cheaper to provide than more standard care, that's up to them. It's their money. But one of the problems with a centralized government approach to health insurance and health benefits is that rather than allowing individuals to make their own choices consistent with their beliefs, the politicians and the bureaucrats wind up crafting compromises that either have taxpayers paying for procedures for which there's no scientific evidence or have religious people paying for procedures that they don't use and that they morally oppose. Abortion gets a lot of attention in this context, but as the Christian Science case shows, it's hardly the only example.