Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Politics Quackery Religion

Fight the intrusion of quackery and religious woo in health care reform

Not long ago, I wrote a post warning about how funding for non-science-based modalities and, indeed, modalities that are purely religion-based, have found their way into various versions of health care reform bills that are currently wending their way through both houses of Congress. In other words, purveyors of faith healing and purely religious woo are trying to do what purveyors of “alternative” medicine have already done through Senator Tom Harkin, and hijack the health care reform process to codify their preferred unscientific health care modalities as legitimate after science has rejected them.

Now, the Center for Inquiry has launched a campaign to inform and educate our legislators. You can participate by using its talking points (or paraphrasing them or voicing your own objections) to protest:

Congress is considering health care legislation that would in part mandate coverage of non-evidenced based medical treatments such as prayer and therapeutic touch. This would raise the cost of health care for all Americans and represent a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

CFI continues:

The Center for Inquiry asks you to contact your Senators and Representative to voice your strong opposition to the proposal in the Heath Care bills that would mandate coverage of non evidence-based “alternative” medical treatments including spiritual and prayer based healing under the guise of nondiscrimination.

Talking Points

  • America needs a health care system that focuses on increasing the health of individuals and reducing the cost of coverage.
  • This type of health care system is not possible if insurers are required to pay for medical treatments with questionable at best results.
  • If Congress requires that insurers cover alternative treatments such as Christian Science prayer, therapeutic touch, or other non-evidence based medical procedures, the cost of health care for all Americans will go up. This runs counter to the goal that Congress has laid out: to make health care more affordable for all Americans. – If the final version of health care reform includes a public option, this mandate would also force the public insurance plan to cover these treatments. Because the public option is federally funded, the inclusion of the mandate would represent an egregious violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

I agree. It’s time to try to stop the insertion of faith-based quackery like Christian Science “prayer” treatments as reimbursable medical expenses in whatever health care reform bill(s) is/are passed by Congress. You can help by going here and writing to your Congressional representatives and Senators.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

18 replies on “Fight the intrusion of quackery and religious woo in health care reform”

Hear! Hear! Some of the similar points I made when I wrote to one of my senators, John Kerry. The down side is that Sen. Kerry is a co-sponsor for an amendment that would extend coverage to include Christian Science prayers.

Well I would support this, but I’m trying to get funding for my Flying Spaghetti Monster faith-based homeopathy treatments. Basically it’s just plain old homeopathy with two key differences: 1. All dilutions are made with Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, and 2. No molecules are added to the diluent, nor is succussing (sp?) necessary, as I assume some of the brew’s water molecules contacted something at some point in the past that will cure what ails ya.

Incidentally, I might add that the Eshoo amendment that prevents biologic drugs from being made generic seems like a lousy idea. I work in pharmaceuticals, but I certainly don’t think guaranteeing profits in perpetuity is a good way to drop health care costs.

Perhaps one useful strategy would be getting proponents of “energy healing” modalities like Therapeutic Touch and Reiki to acknowledge that they’re spiritual modalities. One doesn’t have to dig too deeply through their literature to discover that they’re talking about the soul or spirit — and when they’re challenged on the science they’re often quick to bring up their connection to religious ‘ways of knowing,’ because they think it will gain them brownie points with their customers and potential customers (it often does.)

Rob Monkey, I know you were kidding about the FSM homeopathy, but I really think it might be a brilliant way of illustrating the inanity of funding faith-based “medical” treatments. I hope someone will open a storefront where they promise his noodly goodness for those who pony up their insurance cards.

Oh my would that be so worth it! I’d probably have to be ready to surrender every penny I made should anyone find out the gag, but hey, I’m a pretty experienced bullshitter, I could at least sound more convincing than the optometrist/homeopathy advocate in that other post. Maybe I could just make it a spaghetti restaurant that you can use insurance for?

I’m for choice. Let alties choose an altmed plan. Sure it may cost a little more, but it’s holistic! They pay into it, and are only allowed access to real medicine for cash on the barrel.

Seriously, how much does faith-based therapy cost in the first place? Does it really require reimbursement?

And who does the money go to? Should it go to God, because he’s the one who did it — or at least, the hard work of curing the person? Or the dude who prayed and gets all the credit? Shoot, why can’t the infirm just pray on their own rather than calling in some external healer, if they’re already of the faith?

Even if faith-based healing with a third-party…medium(?) were proven to work I’d still not support it on theological grounds.

MonkeyPox, I’d so be into that, but what about the children? Won’t somebody think of the children?1!!11??!

Yeah, that shoulda been all caps but I can’t bear to do that. And despite the phrasing there’s a serious issue – the altmed loons should not be able to deny treatment to their kids. We’ve seen that all too often here.

Your relevance is somewhat lacking. Please fix. After that, we can work on your ego, and perhaps from there we might have a person capable of actual discussion.

Back on topic; I must admit, I hadn’t thought of the CFI getting involved in this context. It makes perfect sense, though, and I’m left to wonder what took them so long?

Perhaps the relevant information has only just landed on CFI desks?

FWIW, I’d rather see universal health care w/ woo than see no universal health care…

Yeah, who else is going to be able to treat your tiny leprechaun?

I read Dr. Gordon’s HuffGlue article so you don’t have to.

In brief, Jay sez: “Don’t listen to those scary CDC voices trying to scare you about the swine flu. Listen to me instead talking ’bout scary vaccine adjuvants (which we aren’t using, LOL!)!

Dr. Gordon cites an editorial in Med Microbiol Immunol: Possible hidden hazards of mass vaccination against new influenza A/H1N1: have the cardiovascular risks been adequately weighed?”

which includes this endnote: “Dr. Markus Knuf forfeited his coauthorship due to a conflict of interest.”

C’mon, Med Microbiol Immunol! Why play the cocktease? Tell us Dr. Knuf’s COI!

I would like to say. as a Christian completing a degree at Seminary, that the religious “mainstream” does not support the use of religious methods to the exclusion of orthodox statements. The prevailing view, which I have seen expressed even by Pentecostals, is that prayer and other practices complement medical treatment, a perspective consistent with what is known of the role of psychology in health.

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