Ah, now some sort of medical reform bill (or whatever this thing is that’s wandering around the halls of Congress is calling itself,) is now ready for Loopholes, Logrolling and Pork Larding.
The first special little “addition” to pop up in the LA Times, a story by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger reporting from Washington, is this: “Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
“The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
“The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments – which substitute for or supplement medical treatments – on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against ‘religious and spiritual healthcare.’
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.”
The story further noted that “Kerry’s spokeswoman, Whitney Smith, disputed that insurers would be forced to cover prayers. Instead, she said, ‘the amendment would prevent insurers from discriminating against benefits that qualified as spiritual care if the care is recognized by the IRS as a legitimate medical expense. Plans are free to impose standards on spiritual and medical care as long as both are treated equally. It does not mandate that plans provide spiritual care.”
So, now the IRS will get between you and your doctor and Prayer Person? Orrin Hatch, a Republican Sarah Palin fanboy is supporting this? Talk about the original Death Panels. It doesn’t get more lethal than the IRS.
And of course, this amendment has riled scientists and other doctors. “Dr Norman Frost, a pediatrician and medical ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, said the measure went against the goal of reducing healthcare costs by improving evidence-based medical practices. ‘They want a special exception for people who use unproved treatments , and they also want to get paid for it,’ he said. ‘They want people who use prayer to have it just automatically accepted as a legitimate therapy.’”
Yes, indeed, now it starts. Bring on the baster, the larding needle. What makes this amendment so strange – besides it’s blatantly, obviously lobbying for a tiny home-state (MA) religious sect (1,700 0 1,800 congregations world wide) is that there are lots of treatments that do, indeed work, that are unlikely to be covered by any insurance. Unless United Reiki Practitioners, Inc, or a National Acupuncture Union of America show up in the halls of congress with sacks of money.
Under our present system of “healthcare,” hypnosis, biofeedback, Sensory Experiencing Treatment, Acupuncture, Reiki, massage, certified nutritionists, physical therapists, and other therapies get short shrift or no shrift at all from insurers. Yet they do indeed work for many, many people, and are often cheaper than “traditional” treatments. And it’s only recently that chiropractic has been covered for certain procedures.
Yet the “why” and “how” these therapies work is little understood since there’s not been enough research into just what’s going on when the body-mind connection is challenged and enlisted in the healing process. Even now, researchers don’t quite know how placebos work, but they do work, often astonishingly well. So, we know very little at this point and too often our default position is to go with expensive, often dangerous “western medicine” when far simpler, far cheaper methods would do the trick.
In short, our “healthcare” system is sick in ways that have nothing to do with insurance companies, though it is made sicker by our method of paying very well for very poor outcomes. Until we take a serious look at our overall health – nutrition, diet, exercise, dental health, wellness/education efforts, preventative treatments and tests to catch and treat disease early, we’ll still stand mired in a very, very sick expensive system embedded in a very sick society that’s growing poorer by the day.
That’s a recipe that requires . . . prayer. Lots of it.