Tucked into the health care reform bill passed by Sen. Harkin’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee is a mandate that insurers reimburse for “religious or spiritual health care” that is classified as a deductible medical care expense by the Internal Revenue Service. See S.1679, Section 3103(a)(1)(D). The House Energy and Commerce Committee on which Congressman Bruce Braley sits has added a similar measure to the House health care reform bill. See Section 125 of HR3200. If the federal government forces the insurance industry to pay for prayer, the Christian Science church and other faith healing practitioners will use the federal law as another argument that Christian Science “treatment” or prayer should be a legal substitute for medical care of sick children. Between 1 and 5 children currently die in the United States, per month, from religiously-motivated medical neglect. If the Congress passes into law these provisions equating prayer with medical care, this number will surely increase.
There will be more laws like West Virginia’s religious defense to fatal neglect of a child when parents withhold medical care and instead rely on prayer-treatment “if fees and expenses incurred in connection with such treatment are permitted to be deducted from taxable income as ‘medical expenses’ pursuant to regulations or rules promulgated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (West Virginia Code 61-8D-4a(b)).
Iowa’s religious defense to felony child endangerment and manslaughter at Iowa Code 726.6(d) has been justified on similar grounds.
The government should not be forcing anyone to pay for prayer. We urge Congress to remove all provisions in the health care reform bills that require insurers to reimburse for prayer or any other “health care” that is not evidence-based.
Today the House released their version of the health care reform bill that did not include language requiring private and public health plans to cover spiritual care for any person. This "spiritual care" includes reimbursements for payments that Christian Scientists make to members of the Church who pray for them when they are ill.
“Requiring American taxpayers to reimburse Christian Scientists and other religious sects that deny themselves and their children necessary medical care would have been incredibly unethical in addition to a violation of church state separation, said Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition. “I am thrilled that the House of Representatives has chosen to remove language that would have required Americans to foot the bill for religion-based care. Their actions demonstrate that common sense secular values are being heard in the halls of Congress.”
If this language had been included, tax payers would be forced to help foot the bill for this religion-based “care” – “care” offering no scientific evidence of effectiveness. "Care" which, in fact, endangers lives by placing government approval on non-scientific practices.
"The mandate to reimburse religious and spiritual health care has been removed from the House bill, HR3962, the merged bill that is going to the floor. We are thrilled! Thank you for your letters and calls to Congresspersons. We will definitely thank FFRF in our next newsletter for your hard work on this.The FFRF post continues, advising that the bill still has to go through the Senate.
We still have to win in the Senate, but I have a good feeling that momentum is on our side. Of course, this prayer-fee mandate was such an extremely ridiculous idea in the first place. Surely it is unconstitutional for the government to force payment for prayer."
Please oppose the unwise and unconstitutional Section 3103(a)(1)(D), “Program Design,” of Affordable Health Choices Act, Senate Bill 1679, which requires insurers to reimburse for so-called "religious or spiritual health care" (prayer as a substitute for medical evaluation and treatment). Congress should not condone prayer as a substitute for medical evaluation and treatment, much less require its subsidy for one religious sect! Children of Christian Scientists, who could have been saved by medicine, have died because their parents relied on "faith healers." These irresponsible religious sects teach that it is a sin to take an ill or dying child to a medical doctor. It is a "sin" not to get medical care in such circumstances. Congress must not encourage medical maltreatment of dependent children and the government should not be forcing taxpayers or insurance companies to pay for prayer and other religious rituals. Please remove this irresponsible mandate from S. 1679, and from future health care reform bills.