Policy-ish

Should Health Overhaul Cover Prayer, Alternative Medicine?

Some versions of the healthcare overhaul bill would require health plans to cover "religious or spiritual health care." It may not be quite as hot a button as abortion coverage, but the amendment has Congressional tempers flaring.

Hands in prayer.

Should prayer be considered health care? iStockphoto hide caption

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The Los Angeles Times reported on the topic today, pointing to the version of the bill passed by the Senate health committee that includes coverage for prayer and other religious "health care." Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is still deciding whether or not to cut the provision from the consolidated bill that will go to the Senate floor, the paper said.

In the House, two committees voted to include spiritual coverage. But after some members argued the church-state co-mingling was unconstitutional, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nixed it from the consolidated health bill unveiled last Thursday.

The wording in the Senate health bill has atheists and sticklers about church-state separation worried the government would wind up funding things like Christian Scientist "prayer treatments," which people pay $20 to $40 a day to receive. The provision was introduced by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah with the support of Massachusetts Democratic Senators Kerry and the late Edward Kennedy.

The approach could open payment other types of alternative medicine provided by anyone who's licensed to provide care. The Center For Inquiry, an advocate for "secular society," opposes the legislation that covers alternative medicine or spiritual care, calling it, "pseudoscience."

But, alternative medicine is already mainstream. Americans shell out more than $33 billion a year on treatments like supplements, acupuncture and chiropractic care. A recent report said about 38 percent of American adults use some form of alternative medicine.

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