Christian Science Church Raises Religious Problems with MA Health Care Law

August 28, 2006 ( - Christian Science Church officials are saying the Massachusetts health care law that threatens a fee for employers not contributing to workers' health coverage does not take into account religions that believe illness can be treated by prayer.

The Massachusetts Senate passed the measure in May, which would require employers with at least 11 employees that do not offer health insurance to make a fair contribution toward that coverage or pay an annual $295-per-employee fee (See Mass. Senate Votes To Fine Employers Not Providing Health Insurance ). Governor Mitt Romney vetoed the $295 assessment, but his vetoes were overriden in the House (See MA House Overrides Vetoes of Health Care Bill ) and Senate.

According to the Boston Globe, church officials say a provision of the bill requires all residents not under the poverty line to have health insurance or lose their state tax exemption (See MA Bill Requires Citizens to Purchase Health Insurance ). The provision for residents has an exemption for those who do not enroll because of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” but there is no such exemption for employers, the Globe reported.

Church officials this month told the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy that the non-medical insurance coverage it offers employees should qualify as health care, and requested that rules require “health care” without referring to “medical services.”

According to the Globe, the church offers employees who are members of the church a plan that pays for 90% of the cost of treatment by faith healers and for 90% coverage for home care by Christian Science nurses. Annual out-of-pocket expenses for participants in the Christian Science plan are capped at $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families.

By rewriting the law to define insurance coverage only as “health care,” the church said, the state would be consistent with Internal Revenue Service regulations, which describe health plans without making reference to conventional medical treatment.