Orrin Hatch: Health Care Dollars for Prayer Cures, But Not Abortion

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up. You can only read it and weep. Today’s Los Angeles Times includes a front-page piece by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger on an itty-bitty provision in one Senate health care bill that would require insurers to cover Christian Science “prayer treatments” as medical expenses.

Hamburger and Geiger write that the measure, introduced by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, would put prayer treatments “on the same footing” as clinical medicine and would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual health care.”

Oh, my. It doesn’t matter to me—and I hope it won’t matter to you—that the sums of money that might be paid to spiritual healers are relatively small. It matters hugely to me—and I hope it will matter to you—that a spokesperson for the Christian Science Church could tell Times reporters with a straight face that public funding of prayer treatment is part of “finding effective health care.” It matters greatly that this appalling provision, if enacted into law, will undoubtedly invite other faiths to get into the healing business in order to compete with Christian Science for those subsidized insurance payments.

The Hatch provision is not yet in the consolidated healthcare bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring to the floor—it is only in the bill reported out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor—so we might pray that Reid will have the good sense to strip it out, as Speaker Pelosi has already done on the House side.

We all know that the Christian Science mother church is in Boston, but it was still a bit shocking to learn from the Times piece that the Hatch madness is also supported by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Kerry’s spokesperson said it is merely about nondiscrimination against a form of “care” that is recognized by the IRS as a legitimate medical expense. OK, then may I also ask why the IRS still treats prayer as a itemized medical expense that can be deducted from one’s taxes? Am I the only person who thinks this is an insane provision to have in the tax code?

Medical science is evidence-based and faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” according to the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. So I guess they’re really the same, right? Let’s fund them both! But no, no, and NO to any federal dollars for abortion, saith the good senator from Salt Lake. Hatch narrowly lost his push to get this prohibition into the Senate Finance Committee’s health bill, but he vows that he’s not finished: he will fight again on the floor.

If Hatch gets his way, women who purchase comprehensive private insurance packages that include abortion services would have to pay for the entire cost of the package (even if they qualify for federal subsidies) and obtain a separate rider for abortion coverage. Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow said that Hatch would impose an “unprecedented restriction on people who paid for their own health care insurance.”

I say look on the bright side, Sen. Stabenow! Women who lose existing abortion coverage thanks to Hatch will have nothing to worry about. They can get paid for prayer sessions to make their pregnancies magically disappear.

Hatch taketh away, but he also giveth. What’s not to like?

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