Action Alert

Stop Christian Science health care exemption bill

Next Tuesday (March 11), Christian Scientists are holding a “national call-in” lobbying day in Congress to demand a special exemption for Christian Scientists from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all U.S. citizens carry medical health insurance.

The so-called “Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act” (H.R. 1814 and S.862) would exempt people who claim “sincerely held religious beliefs” from insurance signup requirements. The bill is sponsored by 216 members of the House of Representatives and 30 senators — thanks to the power of the Christian Science lobby and politicians’ cowardly pandering to religionists.

Please take a moment now or by March 11 to contact your U.S. representative and senators to oppose HR 1814 /S.862. More background follows the contact information and brief talking points below.

CONTACT

Please email or phone your member of Congress today! Find your congressperson. http://beta.congress.gov/members

TALKING POINTS

Use any of the information in the background following these talking points. Or simply note that you are phoning or emailing to register opposition to H.R. 1814/S.862, “Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH).” Or feel free to copy and paste this text in a message to your representative or senators:

I strongly oppose HR 1814/S.862, introduced on behalf of the Christian Science lobby, seeking special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It would increase insurance costs for the rest of us and be a costly nightmare for states to track. Most significantly, every year children needlessly suffer and die because parents decide to rely only on prayer and fail to seek medical care.

The ACA will save children’s lives. My costs as a taxpayer should not increase because Christian Scientists and others citing “sincerely held beliefs” want to be exempted from purchasing health insurance coverage designed to control costs and make universal coverage affordable. Christian Scientists shouldn’t be exempt from this tax, any more than parents who send children to parochial schools are exempt from supporting our public schools. Many Christian Scientists routinely seek emergency or pregnancy health care, and if they are not covered by insurance, the rest of us will pay more. Most importantly, children’s health should not be put at risk. Kill this bill!

BACKGROUND

What’s wrong with this bill? As Rita Swan of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) notes, the exemption bill has many serious consequences. Besides setting reckless legal precedent, it would increase insurance costs for the rest of us and endanger children.

More than 170 children are buried in the Followers of Christ Peaceful Valley Cemetery in Idaho, many of whom might have survived had their parents been required to obtain health insurance for them.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in upholding the Affordable Care Act, ruled that the universal mandate, enacted to control costs, is a form of taxation, which everyone needs to pay, just as all taxpayers must support our public schools.

Christian Scientists complain they shouldn’t have to pay for care they won’t use, yet Christian Scientists usually seek medical care for fractures, prenatal care, delivery of babies and going to the eye doctor for glasses.

Insurance works on the assumption that many in the pool of policyholders won’t draw from it. For instance, most people with fire insurance will never need to make use of such coverage.

Equally unworkable would be tracking those who are exempt to ensure they haven’t sought medical care. HR1814 is modeled on the Massachusetts religious exemption. CHILD notes that in 2007, about 9,700 Massachusetts residents claimed a religious exemption. A data match done that year showed that 745 of them had nevertheless received free medical care during the year.

Massachusetts has failed since to track exemptions or enforce its penalty for individuals who seek exemption from medical care but then obtain it. If a state relies on an honor system of self-reporting, there will be widespread abuses of the law. Many individuals will find it convenient to claim an exemption yet continue to get care at the public’s expense. This is grossly unfair and will lower the public’s respect for the law.

Swan notes, “Our organization has information on hundreds of American children who have died because of their family’s religious objections to medical care. Many others get to the emergency room at the last minute, and their medical care is much more expensive than it would have been if the children had a medical home and routine basic care. HR 1814 increases the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care.”

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