One of the provisions proposed for the current health care bill has received little attention in the media: mandatory coverage for faith healers. Christian Science advocates are pushing for the inclusion in the bill under a provision barring discrimination against religious based healing. They previously won support from both Republicans and Democrats for the astonishing provision that would require insurance companies to pay religious healers in the same way as radiologists.
Recently, I ran a column on how faith-healing parents are being given light sentences in the deaths of their children, here.
This provision would create a mandate that such faith-healing practices must be financially supported as part of the national health care plan.
Faith healers like Susan Breuer receive money to pray people to good health. While this is likely to come as a surprise too many, it appears that the Internal Revenue Service already allows prayer sessions to be deducted on income tax forms as medical expenses. Faith healers charge between $20 and $50 for such sessions. It is not clear if a tip gets a little more effort with the Almighty or whether this is a fixed rate.
Any tax exemption by the IRS for faith healing as a medical expense is, in my view, utter lunacy and raises serious questions of separation of church and state. (The IRS already allows deductions for Scientology “auditing” sessions in another absurd decision). This proposed provision magnifies that constitutional problem.
Yet, supporters were able to get not only Sen. Orrin Hatch to support the provision in earlier versions of the bill but they secured the support of Sen. John Kerry and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. While it is not currently in the bill, it is simply astonishing that such members would endorse such a measure. While it was crafted as an anti-discrimination provision, it is clearly intended to force coverage for religious observances
The measure was approved by two House committees and one Senate committee.
This provision reinforces the fears of many citizens that this bill contains a host of unreviewed special provisions (including many unrelated to health care). This provision would have gutted separation principles and established a troubling endorsement of faith healing. Yet, there was virtually no discussion of the matter and Democratic leaders supported it.
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