Sunday, September 03, 2006

Will Christian Science health plan count in Massachusetts?

As recently reported by the AP (courtesy of the Portsmouth (NH) Herald), health care regulators in Massachusetts are beset by a bevy of difficult issues in the wake of the Bay State's passage of a universal health care law:

When Gov. Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts' health care law in April, it was hailed as a watershed moment.

Under the new law, Massachusetts is the first state to require all residents to have health insurance by July 2007.

The poorest will receive subsidized care, while everyone making more than three times the federal poverty level will be required to have private insurance, either through their employer or on their own.

To encourage employers to offer insurance, the law imposes an annual $295 per-worker fee on employers that don't offer insurance but employ 11 or more workers.

Christian Scientists want to make sure the new regulations recognize the church's own health plan, based on spiritual healing instead of medications and surgery, as a legitimate health care plan both for employers and individuals. . . .

[Jane Warmack, head of the church's legislative division] said the church wants to make sure other health care plans that don't rely on invasive medical care are put on an equal legal footing with other insurance plans.

"The legislative intent behind the law was to ensure that Massachusetts residents would be provided health care," she said. "It wasn't to dictate a particular kind of health care."

She said she also wanted to make sure that individuals who opt for alternative plans would not be penalized.

"What's at stake is people's access to the type of health care they want and for some people that is spiritual healing," she said.

The church already has testified before the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, which will write the final regulations. Those are expected sometime in early September, according to Dick Powers, spokesman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

"We listened and read everyone's testimony and all of it will be taken into consideration," Powers said.

Powers also pointed to a portion of the law that would allow individuals to avoid tax penalties if they file an affidavit with their income tax returns stating "sincerely held religious beliefs" were the basis of their refusal to obtain "creditable coverage."

posted by tommayo, 9:31 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter