It would seem unconstitutional for U.S. taxpayers to support religion, but of course we do, giving tax breaks to churches and exempting ministers from being taxed on their housing allowance. Still, all religions are treated equally in those respects. But there’s one way a few religions are given even more unconscionable tax breaks: those religions, like Christian Science, that practice faith healing. Faith healing does not work, of course: tests of the efficacy of prayer and “distant healing”, which are multiplying, show no positive effects Yet the government continues to subsidize them, as I suppose the UK government does for homeopathy. In my view, if the taxpayers are going to support medical care, there has to be some evidence that it works.
Here’s material taken directly from an official page from the Church of Christ, Scientist: “Where is Christian Science care covered in public and private insurance?”
The question of how Christian Science care will fit into a post-health care reform landscape can be partially answered by examining the experience of existing coverage for Christian Science nursing/practitioner care in public and private insurance. That’s right – some insurance companies already pay for this type of care. In fact, it has been covered by insurance for over 90 years. (Please consider providing the information we request below.) More specifically . . .
- 17 Christian Science nursing facilities are Medicare providers. So, individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part A coverage can receive reimbursement for Christian Science nursing care at those facilities. This system has been in place for over forty years. [JAC: you can see the list of those facilities here.]
- If you work for the federal government as a civilian employee you have the option of choosing from four Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) plans that cover Christian Science nursing/practitioner care: 1) the Government Employees Health Association (GEHA) plan; 2) the Mail Handlers Benefit Plan; 3) the Association Benefit Plan; and 4) the Special Agent Mutual Benefit Association (SAMBA) plan.
- If you are a member of the armed forces or a dependent of a member of the armed forces, you may qualify for the TRICARE insurance program, which covers Christian Science nursing/practitioner care.
- If you are a state employee in the following states, then Christian Science nursing/practitioner care may be available to you under your state employee insurance plan: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.
- Christian Science practitioner and nursing services also qualify as tax-deductible medical expenses under the medical expense income tax deduction under Section 213(d) of the IRS code. Because of this designation, individuals who have health savings accounts (HSA’s) and contribute money to them, may use those pre-tax dollars to pay for Christian Science practitioner and nursing care.
- Several private insurance plans and self-insured companies include Christian Science nursing/practitioner care as a reimbursable benefit.
No real medical care is provided at Christian science nursing facilities. The “practitioners” have only two or three weeks of training, and their main instrument of healing is prayer. Ashley King, the girl whose story is below (a story I’ve told before) received no care beyond prayer, food and water, and dressing of her tumor. Her pain was terrible, but of course such facilities offer no pain medication. After all, they say, pain is just an illusion, the result of faulty thinking.
This is the kind of “healing” that we subsidize, though in Ashley’s case her sanatorium was not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. I have no idea whether the King family received a tax break on any payments for Ashley’s “care.” What I do know is that Christian Science healing is quackery.
The U.S. government, or for that matter the British government or any government, has no business subsidizing “medical” care that hasn’t been shown to work. It’s an incentive that keeps people ill, and, in the case of people like the Kings, promotes the abuse of children.
(Thanks to author Caroline Fraser for the reference and the UC library for getting me the scan.) The reference is at bottom. Read the story of a tragedy that, but for religion, could have been avoided or ameliorated.
I’ve showed this picture before but I’ll show it again. This is Catherine King, Ashley’s mother, who displayed cardboard cutouts of her late daughter at the press conference she held after being convicted for a misdemeanor (reckless endangerment) and given three years of unsupervised probation and 150 hours of community service for making a martyr of her child.
Brown, J. W. Oct. 21, 1988. “I’m in so much pain.” Transcripts describe young Christian Scientist’s agonizing death. Pp. A1, A4. Phoenix Gazette, Phoenix, AZ.