Find a health care voice: The individual mandate, individualized

The following piece was written by recent Amherst College graduate Elodie Reed, reporting for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in Peterborough, NH. The original can be read online at the Ledger-Transcript website and on the Concord Monitor website.

Find a health care voice: The individual mandate, individualized

By Elodie Reed
Monday, October 7, 2013
(Published in print: Tuesday, October 8, 2013)

“This past summer, I, a somewhat politically ignorant, country-loving, New Hampshire native, found myself in the most unlikely of places: Washington, D.C.. As an intern for the Federal Christian Science Committee on Publication, the legislative group for the Christian Science Church, I became well acquainted with downtown D.C., spreadsheets, our legislators on Capitol Hill, and most importantly, the Affordable Care Act.

“As a Christian Scientist, I actively rely on prayer for preventative and curative care for any issue that arises. In addition, I have access to Christian Science practitioners for prayerful assistance, as well as Christian Science nurses and Christian Science nursing facilities, which provide religious nonmedical care with services such as bandaging, mobility, food preparation and bathing that allow someone to be physically comfortable while undergoing prayerful treatment. While the Christian Science Church leaves all health care decisions up to each individual, most Christian Scientists choose not to use medical care, relying successfully and solely on Christian Science treatment. Having never used medical care, medical health insurance hasn’t seemed relevant for me or other Christian Scientists … until now.

“With the exchanges opening up last week and the ACA individual mandate taking effect come January, myself and other Christian Scientists, like many people in this country, are left wondering what to do about medical health insurance. Almost definitely as a result of oversight in the rushed drafting process for the ACA, there is currently no religious exemption for Christian Scientists. Only the Amish, the Mennonites, and Health Care Sharing Ministries can claim exemption to the individual mandate under a ‘religious conscious objection.’ It doesn’t seem fair, however, for Christian Scientists to pay into a health care system that does not provide the type of care they have used throughout their lives — prayer and Christian Science practitioners and nurses.

“For this reason, it made sense for me to go to D.C., contrary to what would appear sensical from my self-description above. I had this wonderful opportunity to be a voice in a legislative issue directly affecting me, and I also could take the time to learn more of what Congress is all about.

“What I saw there was — don’t fall out of your chair — encouraging.

“By working with the Christian Science Committee on Publication to find a solution to the lack of provision for Christian Scientists in the ACA, I met people at every stage of the game: constituents, lobbyists, many staffers, and even some Congressmen. With most of these individuals, when myself and my colleagues took the time to explain our issue in a face-to-face conversation, something amazing happened: people not only listened from both sides of the aisle, but heard us, and helped us move forward on our legislative efforts.

“While Christian Scientists do not yet have a solution to the lack of a provision under the ACA, we have taken the first and most important step. By considering all the ways to be included in or excluded from the new health care law, Christian Scientists have learned how to be part of the political process, building relationships and becoming a respected presence on Capitol Hill. We have allowed our voices to be heard, and though the things we say may be quite different, they matter. Our health care needs, like everyone else’s, matter.

“When individuals become people and not just numbers, individuals’ needs are much easier to recognize, and address. Sure, there are over 300 million people in our country, each of whom has singular needs, but the more voices behind those collective needs that can be heard, the better. The only way you can address a problem is if you know about it — if you hear about it — first.

“Which is why we shouldn’t all just throw our hands up and say, ‘Well, to hell with it,’ about Congress, about the ACA, about anything. The purpose behind the ACA, after all, is to provide for everyone’s needs. The implementation may not be perfect (let’s be honest, right now it may be only barely functional), but like someone new to parenting, it’ll get better, it’ll become more effective. And eventually, akin to the weathered and dependable parents like my own, our health care system will find a way to provide for as many needs as it can, and for the ones it can’t, we’ll have been given the tools to figure it out.

“Elodie Reed, originally of Bow, now lives in Harrisville. She is a reporter for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, covering the towns of Dublin, Jaffrey and Rindge.”

Christian Science health care insurance update

The Federal Office of the Christian Science Committee on Publication held a Town Hall Forum this summer to discuss the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Health Care Reform Law of 2010, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This post is to summarize what was discussed regarding the implications of this law for Christian Scientists, how the Committee is responding, and what you can do to help.

Last week, Milford Assistant Committee on Publication Don Alusic attended a local event sponsored by United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen and asked a staff member for an opportunity to discuss Christian Science health care insurance coverage. This led to a meeting between Senator Shaheen’s staff and the Federal office to ask for support for a Congressional bill that would exempt Christian Scientists from the Federal mandate to buy health insurance (similar to Massachusetts’ religious conscience exemption).

According to the new Federal ACA law, by 2014 all Americans must have or purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. If you are covered by Medicare (for those 65 or older), Medicaid (for those with low income), Tri-Care (for those in the military), a Veterans’ insurance plan, or an employer plan, you will meet the requirement. The government will subsidize the cost for those less able to afford it. The penalty starts out small the 1st year ($95 or 1% of the family’s income), but increases to $695 or 2.5% by 2016.

At present, there is neither accommodation for nor exemption from these requirements for Christian Scientists. The Federal Office of the Committee on Publication, with the support of the Christian Science Board of Directors, has been working diligently on Capitol Hill however, and that dialog is progressing. They are proceeding patiently and prayerfully. They have garnered support from many legislators either to include Christian Science treatment and care in the benefits offered or to exempt Christian Scientists from the health insurance requirement.

By 2013, States are required to set up Exchanges or insurance marketplaces where individuals may “shop” for insurance coverage. New Hampshire voted to let the Federal Government set up the exchange instead. The New Hampshire Committee has been involved with the group helping to implement the exchange. We have received some support for the inclusion of Christian Science care in the benefits offered. Our goal is to be included in at least one of the insurance plans.

How can you help? Most importantly by giving this your prayerful attention.

Nathan Talbot, the chairman of The Christian Science Board of Directors, addressing Christian Scientists during the Town Hall Forum, asked them to affirm the God-given qualities belonging to each individual involved in the process, whether in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of government; qualities such as wisdom, patience, intelligence; and to recognize and celebrate the presence of the Comforter as providing the ultimate care for mankind, knowing that the human scene will find its appropriate adjustment.

Please see the Christian Science website for more information (FAQ), and to sign up for the periodic Federal newsletter: