Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Co-Pays for Faith Healing

Right now, lobbyists are hard at work trying to convince politicians to hold insurance companies responsible for covering prayer fees.

The Christian Scientist Church is currently employing lobbyists to persuade lawmakers to draft a bill that will push insurance companies to cover $25-$50 visits to the Christian Scientist Church for healing prayer. In his New York Times article, Paul Vitello explains how the aforementioned church plans to connect with modern medicine via the thin bridge of structured service billing.

The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in Boston by Mary Eddy in 1879. After sustaining a serious injury after slipping on a sheet of ice and being told that she had no chance of recovery by her local doctor, Ms. Eddy claimed to be miraculously healed after reading a New Testament Bible verse. She thus formed the Church around the premise that the Scripture beckons Christians to heal others by mimicking Jesus’ reliable actions.

Original Christian Scientist text warned that “anyone inviting a doctor to his sickbed invites defeat.” Since its inception, over 50 members have been charged in connection with death or injury stemming from members, mostly children, being encouraged to forego medical care. Currently, church officials maintain that “its members [have always] been free to choose medical care”. Declining membership rates and Church closings have forced the Christian Scientists to reinvent their approach. They hope that the co-pay options will act as a double edged sword that will both enforce the legitimacy of faith healing and increase the profits of the Church.

Lobbyists have petitioning the Senate on behalf of the Church of Christ, Scientist since 2006. In October 2009, Senate leaders received statements from physicians invalidating faith healing because of the “ complete lack of scientific evidence of the efficacy of prayer in treating any illness or disorder in children.” The doctors maintained that by holding insurance companies responsible for financing the Church’s prayer consultations, the government would be effectively “mandating coverage… for services that run counter to the principles of evidence-based medicine.”

Unfortunately, the article does not question the constitutionality of a Bill that would effectively support the practices of a church that performs services whose only qualifiers are references to Jesus Christ. Isn’t that in violation of the Establishment Clause? In the 1993 Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah case, the Supreme Court held that states cannot restrict religiously mandated animal slaughter. The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye is a Yoruba church in Florida that, among other things, provides spiritual help and guidance to its members through Santeria practices. If this Bill is passed, would Santeria healing be included also? Would a Yoruba woman undergoing fertility treatments, who requests a Priest to summon the fertility goddess Oshun to aid in conception, be covered? Probably not. Religious treatment should not be mandated by the Legislative Branch. If all religious healing and treatment cannot be addressed in this Bill, then it is futile to even consider it.


Gavin C. said...

This is an interesting case, but I am not sure whether the religious aspect would be the first issue to be dealt with. I do not know what the legal responsibility is for a insurance company to cover any given medical procedure. I know that many policies do not cover cosmetic surgery, which is a procedure that can certainly be founded in scientific efficacy, and which many people would claim can heal emotional ailments. If the insurance companies are at liberty to refuse this type of medical procedure, then it seems likely that they would be permitted to opt out of faith healing coverage. Presumably, if such a bill were to be passed, insurance companies might use the establishment-violation argument to challenge the bill. If this were to happen, the Court would again have to tackle the question of the relationship between science and religion. Under the definition of science that was developed in the Pennsylvania District Court case Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005), it is likely that the court would find that, as with Intelligent Design, faith healing does not constitute science because it violates “centuries-old science grounded rules by invoking and permitting supernatural causation” (Kitzmiller 2005).

JoeyM said...

This is insane. Charging people money for prayer. I'm sure that is not very biblical, but then again what aspects of the modern Christian faith are biblical? Honestly, if you want healing prayer just walk into your nearest church or revival gathering. Heck, come find me and I will pray healing over you. Makes me want to flip some tables or something.

nedwards13 said...

Scam. Although I have to admit I very much appreciate the effort and the though put into the aspect. I know that if I was of this religion/belief i would be advocating for it also. The fact of the matter is that in no way shape or form will this fly. These people have obviously concocted this idea for them to start seeing money flooding in the millions. Although since before the members of this religion were known to not seek medical help I wonder how this will all play out for the new health care reform? I am under the impression that if one decides not to obtain the healthcare coverage that ones is required (now by law) to have is the government medling in religious affiars? Another thing that came to mind is, if these people were not going to the Doctor, Hospital, ER etc now that the idea of the insurane compant accomadating their religious rituals is there will they go more and if so wouldn't this in the end make the insurance companies more money? It seems to me like this is a job for the Country of Opportunists !