Today the LA Times described a bizarre and troublesome healthcare reform bill provision that would require Medicare to pay for Christian Science Prayer as a medical treatment:

…a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments — which substitute for or supplement medical treatments — on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual healthcare.”

Of course, I had warned about this very thing over a year ago on KevinMD’s blog – something I wish the LA Times had picked up on then.

On September 5, 2008 the ring leaders of this provision met at the National Press Club to promote their medical philosophy. I was so stunned by the sheer quackery of it all – miracle cure stories and false medical diagnoses – that I wrote a “reader take” blog post warning the medical community about the speakers. But perhaps I was warning the wrong people… or perhaps the right people don’t read medical blogs?

At the Press Club, Phil Davis (also quoted in the LA Times article) told a story about a man who sustained major multiple trauma after being in a car accident, only to be miraculously healed 2 weeks later through Christian Science prayer. Another woman, Melinna Giannini, Founder & CEO, ABC Coding Solutions, relayed a story in which she had a “mysterious” condition (in the face of a long battery of normal test results) – and found the “true diagnosis” only after seeing an alternative healthcare practitioner who looked at her tongue and prescribed treatment for “total body candidiasis.”

At the time I remember wondering how these people managed to get a hearing at the National Press Club – and was struck by their sheer determination to lobby for their misguided beliefs. Now, one year later I’m dumbfounded by their success at having a Senator (Orrin Hatch) actually add a provision to a healthcare reform bill. This tells me that determination trumps both common sense and science in the political arena. What a sad state of affairs.

If, as President Obama promised in his inaugural address, science is to be restored to its rightful place – then the first place to start is with keeping quackery out of the healthcare reform bills. It’s astonishing that this even needs to be discussed. Perhaps this is yet another wake up call regarding the war on science being waged (as recently noted by Wired Magazine and Newsweek) by a hyper-organized band of snake oil salesmen and their ill-informed Hollywood devotees? In this new Internet era – loud wins. I implore mainstream media to use their influence to make truth loud… partner with your trusted blogger sources, like the Science-Based Medicine team. We can help!

Posted by Val Jones

Val Jones , M.D., is the President and CEO of Better Health, PLLC, a health education company devoted to providing scientifically accurate health information to consumers. Most recently she was the Senior Medical Director of Revolution Health, a consumer health portal with over 120 million page views per month in its network. Prior to her work with Revolution Health, Dr. Jones served as the founding editor of Clinical Nutrition & Obesity, a peer-reviewed e-section of the online Medscape medical journal. Dr. Jones is also a consultant for Elsevier Science, ensuring the medical accuracy of First Consult, a decision support tool for physicians. Dr. Jones was the principal investigator of several clinical trials relating to sleep, diabetes and metabolism, and she won first place in the Peter Cyrus Rizzo III research competition. Dr. Jones is the author of the popular blog, “Dr. Val and the Voice of Reason,” which won The Best New Medical Blog award in 2007. Her cartoons have been featured at Medscape, the P&S Journal, and the Placebo Journal. She was inducted as a member of the National Press Club in Washington , DC in July, 2008. Dr. Jones has been quoted by various major media outlets, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. She has been a guest on over 20 different radio shows, and was featured on CBS News.

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