Revisiting the EACH Act with a Federal Office Update

Revisiting the EACH Act with a Federal Office Update

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by Don Ingwerson

Here it is almost June, and the EACH Act is still on people’s minds as to whether it will continue to move through the legislative process and become law. If you haven’t already done so, it’s still a good time to thank your Representatives for their support of this bill.Continue Reading

Are You Interested in Answers About the March 31st Deadline?

Are You Interested in Answers About the March 31st Deadline?

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by Don Ingwerson

The March 31st deadline is fast approaching and I wanted to share with you an article from the Los Angeles Times that you may find helpful. Keep in mind that every day new information is coming out about this health care issue, so I will continue to update you as often as possible!Continue Reading

Armed With Spiritual Clarity on Capitol Hill

Armed With Spiritual Clarity on Capitol Hill

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by Don Ingwerson

For today’s blog I wanted to share with you a new metaphysical article from the Federal Committee on Publication site. This blog is about a December trip that Christian Scientists from Delaware took to visit Capitol Hill to talk to their representatives about a legislative effort  to promote an exemption to purchase health insurance as required by the Affordable Care Act. Josephine Bayard, an interior designer and owner of Plain and Fancy Interiors in Wilmington, initially felt a strong resistance to making the trip. She writes about how she worked through her sense of “I didn’t want to go” and ended up finishing the day thinking, “I’m glad I went.” This article can be found here: From “I didn’t want to go to I’m glad I went”: armed with spiritual clarity on Capitol Hill and is written by Josephine Bayard.

I didn’t want to go.

For so long I had felt inadequate, uninformed, and unwilling to try to represent Christian Science publicly. Finally, Christ broke through that resistance with the thought that Mrs. Eddy asked members to show up for various assignments on short notice regardless of their resume, obligations at home, or lack of self-confidence. I have always admired those early workers and now it was my turn.

Alfred Farlow’s metaphysical points were surprisingly relevant in 2013! His mention of fairness and justice struck me as all that we are asking of our legislators in their provisions for Christian Scientists. Considering our Constitution, fairness and justice are not too much to ask, and this strengthened my resolve and confidence in our mission.

His reminders to stay awake did keep me focused when my mind wandered during discussion of political ramifications. I could feel myself beginning to daydream about the artistry of the architecture, and lovely lunch we had shared. Very quickly Farlow’s words came to me, “my usefulness to the Cause is in proportion to my wakefulness.”

In preparing for the day, I noticed the story of the man healed of a withered hand in the lesson. I felt the Christ calling me to “stand forth” – stand up for what I knew to be the Truth, and “stretch forth” – extend my conviction beyond my comfort zone, trusting the Comforter, in the zone of divine Love, to govern man. Bearing witness to the patience and persistence of the Federal Office as it performs its vital work with our Congressmen and women, was evidence that the restoration of justice and fairness was and is going on.

The idea that “angels are God’s representatives” (see p. 299 ofScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy) stayed with me that day as we watched the members of the House of Representatives voting and networking with each other. It was a precious opportunity to see government, prayer, and the Christ in action.

As a church member and constituent of my state, I look on that day with great gratitude for Christian Scientists working in Boston and Washington, and for our elected officials, committed to getting it right. There was definitely the presence of Mind in our meetings, and obvious prayerful preparation, leading to a collegial meeting and a successful result.

I’m glad I went.

 

High-Deductible Insurance Plans and the ACA

High-Deductible Insurance Plans and the ACA

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by Don Ingwerson

Recently the Committee on Publication Federal Office posted new information on high-deductible insurance plans and how they fit in with the Affordable Care Act. I hope you find this information helpful as you go forward with any possible search for health insurance. To read this article on the original site, click here: High-deductible insurance plans and the ACA.

High-deductible plans (also sometimes called “catastrophic” or “self-directed” plans) have become a popular option for obtaining emergency, safety net-type coverage for large, unforeseen health care expenses. Monthly premiums for these policies are lower than for other health plans because the annual deductibles are higher. The potential downside to such plans is that if you incur a health expense in a particular plan year, you may have to pay more out-of-pocket until your deductibles are satisfied and the insurance kicks in.

Some high-deductible plans called “HSA-compatible health plans” can also be combined with health savings accounts (HSAs), which can be used to pay for qualified health care expenses not covered by your health plan, and might include care by Christian Science practitioners, Christian Science nurses, and Christian Science nursing facilities.*

When it comes to the ACA, some levels of high-deductible coverage will satisfy the law’s qualification standards, and some won’t. Many states offer coverage options to the public generally that are considered “catastrophic” and that meet the ACA’s requirements. Some of the options may only be available to those under the age of 30 or with low incomes and have more limited coverage. You can learn what plans are available to you on your state’s online insurance exchange.

*Please note that some high-deductible coverage is compatible for using in conjunction with a health savings account (HSA) and some is not. If you are interested in pairing high-deductible coverage with an HSA, you will want to verify that the coverage is an HSA-compatible health plan. It should reference “HSA” somewhere in the plan name or description, but it would also be good to verify that in writing with the insurance carrier.

Former Intern Discusses the ACA

Former Intern Discusses the ACA

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Model used for illustrative purposes

Elodie Reed, the Government Relations Division’s Summer 2013 intern, is now a reporter for New Hampshire’s Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. In her hot-off-the-press article, “Find a health care voice: The individual mandate, individualized,” Elodie discusses Christian Scientists and the Affordable Care Act.

Check out Elodie’s article!

You may also be interested in Elodie’s metaphysical perspective on her summer interning with the Government Relations Division: “Understanding government: an intern’s perspective”.

Affordable Care Act Updates

Affordable Care Act Updates

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by Don Ingwerson

We’re coming down to the home stretch in terms of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and many questions are still being asked. The Federal Office hosted an online Town Hall Meeting titled “The Affordable Care Act and You” on September 24th and for anyone who wants to review it or missed it the first time, there is a replay available. I also wanted to give you some new information and helpful links on the state insurance marketplaces that opened up October 1:

“The Affordable Care Act and You”: the replay

  • learn about how you can prepare for Jan. 1 and what options currently exist for Christian Scientists
  • find the answers to your questions
  • hear inspiring remarks from Margaret Rogers of the Christian Science Board of Directors.

Over 2300 computers, tablets, and phones tuned in during the live event, from Alaska and Hawaii to Montana to Maine and everywhere in between—and in many cases, branch church congregations and other groups were listening together. Here’s what a few of these listeners wrote us after the event:

  • “Thanks so much for this informative session….Thank you also for ending the meeting with the wonderful treatment from Margaret Rogers.”
  • “This was such an interesting program. I have not followed any of this before and so it is a wake up call for me to pay attention and get educated to make choices for myself.”
  • “I am so glad I took the time to listen. This was so helpful in answering questions about the ACA and it’s good to know so much is being done toward practical solutions for Christian Scientists.”

Check out the replay!

ACA update: state insurance marketplaces open October 1, 2013

The Affordable Care Act requires that most Americans obtain qualifying medical health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014, and also provides for online state health insurance exchanges (marketplaces). Here, individuals can compare and enroll in insurance plans (and find out whether they are eligible for federal subsidies to purchase insurance).

For individuals who would like to purchase an insurance plan in the online marketplace, Oct. 1 marks the first day of open enrollment, which will continue until March 31, 2014.

Note that the government shutdown does not affect the functioning of the exchanges.

For more information about your state’s exchange, visit www.healthcare.gov. The marketplace also has a 24/7 customer call center (800-318-2596) to answer questions, as well as a website with information.

Other ACA-related questions? Check out our FAQs and Resources web pages!

Town Hall Forum on the ACA

Town Hall Forum on the ACA

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by Don Ingwerson

The Affordable Care Act is about to go into effect, and the Federal Office will be hosting a live audio town hall event on September 24th at 7:30 EDT. I posted this blog last Thursday, but many of you have asked for this information again! Here is what the Federal Office has sent out to encourage participation in this important event. (To read this announcement on the Federal Office website, click here: September 24 Town Hall Forum.)

How will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affect you? Listen in…

Beginning on January 1, Americans will be required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to purchase qualifying health insurance or pay a tax penalty for noncompliance.

Are you wondering how the ACA will affect you? Listen in for the latest updates from the Committee on Publication . . . for what options currently exist for Christian Scientists . . . and for how you can prepare for January 1.

Join us on Sept. 24, 2013 at 7:30pm EDT / 4:30pm PDT for a live online audio town hall event: “The Affordable Care Act and You”!

You’ll hear about:

  •  the latest updates from the Committee on Publication
  • what options currently exist for Christian Scientists
  • how you can prepare for Jan. 1, 2014
  • the answers to your questions

Submit your questions via email: federal@csps.com

Panelists will include:

  • Kevin Ness, General Counsel of The First Church of Christ, Scientist—moderator
  • Gary Jones, Manager of the Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office
  • Melanie D’Evelyn, Federal Legislative Director, U.S. Federal Office
  • Tessa Frost, Strategic Relations Manager, U.S. Federal Office
  • and special guests, too!

A replay will be available shortly after the event.

____________________________

“…the government shall be upon his shoulder…”

(Isaiah 9:6)

“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”

(Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

Town Hall Forum on the ACA

Town Hall Forum on the ACA

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

The Affordable Care Act is about to go into effect, and the Federal Office will be hosting a live audio town hall event on September 24th at 7:30 EDT. Here is what the Federal Office has sent out to encourage participation in this important event. (To read this announcement on the Federal Office website, click here: September 24 Town Hall Forum.)

How will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affect you? Listen in…

Beginning on January 1, Americans will be required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to purchase qualifying health insurance or pay a tax penalty for noncompliance.

Are you wondering how the ACA will affect you? Listen in for the latest updates from the Committee on Publication . . . for what options currently exist for Christian Scientists . . . and for how you can prepare for January 1.

Join us on Sept. 24, 2013 at 7:30pm EDT / 4:30pm PDT for a live online audio town hall event: “The Affordable Care Act and You”!

You’ll hear about:

  •  the latest updates from the Committee on Publication
  • what options currently exist for Christian Scientists
  • how you can prepare for Jan. 1, 2014
  • the answers to your questions

Submit your questions via email: federal@csps.com

Panelists will include:

  • Kevin Ness, General Counsel of The First Church of Christ, Scientist—moderator
  • Gary Jones, Manager of the Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office
  • Melanie D’Evelyn, Federal Legislative Director, U.S. Federal Office
  • Tessa Frost, Strategic Relations Manager, U.S. Federal Office
  • and special guests, too!

A replay will be available shortly after the event.

____________________________

“…the government shall be upon his shoulder…”

(Isaiah 9:6)

“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”

(Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

Health Care FAQs Update

Health Care FAQs Update

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by Don Ingwerson

Last year the Federal Committee on Publication office put out questions and answers on Christian Science and the Affordable Care Act. I posted it on the blog at the time, but I just noticed that there are some additional questions and answers that have been added, and reviewing all of the answers may be helpful to you as well. So here is the updated Q&A. If you want to read this on the Federal Committee on Publication site, click here: Frequently asked questions.

1. How is the U.S. Federal Office responding to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA), which was signed into law in March 2010?

We are actively seeking appropriate ways for a religious accommodation and/or exception to be recognized in the new health care reform law. For example, the U.S. Federal Office is continuing to:

A) request that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include the coverage of spiritual care services, including Christian Science practitioner and Christian Science nursing (including facility) services, in the benefits that will be offered by health insurance companies under the new law; and

B) seek a legislative solution with Congress that would allow anyone with a “sincerely held religious belief” against the federally mandated health insurance coverage to be exempt from the tax penalty for failing to have the required coverage.

We feel both of these initiatives are important components of an overall solution to the inequity Christian Scientists face under the ACA.

2. Doesn’t the ACA already contain a religious opt-out or an accommodation for Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services for their health?

No. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes neither a religious opt-out nor an accommodation from the health insurance mandate for those who use spiritual care to meet their health needs.

Accordingly, there is no requirement that Christian Science practitioners and Christian Science nursing services be covered and reimbursed in health insurance plans under the new legislation. However, neither is there anything in the legislation that would restrict or eliminate existing provisions in the law that recognize spiritual care or that would prohibit insurance plans participating in the new health insurance exchanges from offering coverage for spiritual care.

In earlier stages of the legislation, several committees in the House and Senate adopted a “religious non-discrimination” provision that the Committee on Publication had requested. The provision was designed to prevent insurance companies from arbitrarily discriminating against spiritual care services, including the reimbursement of Christian Science practitioner and nursing services. However, the non-discrimination provision was not included in the final health care legislation.

3. Was there opposition to finding a legislative solution for Christian Scientists under the new law?

Yes. We are working to address misperceptions held by some atheist groups, separation-of-church-and-state organizations, and long-time critics of the Christian Science Church, who do not support accommodating those who use spiritual care services.

4. If there is no religious exemption or accommodation from the health insurance mandate for those who use spiritual care, what effect might this have on Christian Scientists? When does the new law take effect?

Most aspects of the legislation, including the health insurance mandate, do not begin to take effect until 2014. And many of the details of what is included in the legislation will be determined over the next few years by federal regulators and subsequent legislation. Accordingly, the responses we’re providing here are based on information that’s available now and is subject to change.

We’ve been assured by members of Congress that nothing in the new legislation is intended to minimize or reduce existing provisions in the law that recognize spiritual care, and that nothing in the new legislation is meant to prohibit insurance companies from covering spiritual care.

One of the provisions that will impact all Americans, including Christian Scientists, is a requirement that individuals who choose not to obtain the mandated health insurance pay a yearly penalty unless they can show they’re exempt or covered by qualifying health insurance. This penalty will be phased in over a number of years. Starting in 2014, the penalty would be the greater of $95 per year per individual or 1 percent of modified adjusted gross income and would increase annually, rising to $695 or 2.5% of income in 2016.

5. To what extent do U.S. federal, state, and private health insurance plans already provide for the reimbursement of spiritual care and treatment services?

Here are some examples that may be of interest to you:

• 17 Christian Science nursing facilities are Medicare providers.  So, individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part A coverage can receive reimbursement for Christian Science nursing care at those facilities. This benefit has been in place for over forty years.

• If you work for the U.S. government as a civilian employee you have the option of choosing from four Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) plans that cover Christian Science nursing/practitioner care: 1) the Government Employees Health Association (GEHA) plan; 2) the Mail Handlers Benefit Plan; 3) the Compass Rose Health Plan; and 4) the Special Agent Mutual Benefit Association (SAMBA) plan.

• If you are a member or a dependent of a member of the U.S. armed forces, you may qualify for the TRICARE insurance program, which covers Christian Science nursing care and Christian Science practitioner treatment.

• If you are a state employee in the following states, then Christian Science nursing and practitioner services may be available to you under your state employee insurance plan: California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

• Christian Science practitioner and nursing services also qualify as tax-deductible medical expenses under the income tax deduction provided for in Section 213(d) of the IRS code.  Because of this designation, individuals who have health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and contribute money to them may use pre-tax dollars to pay for Christian Science practitioner and nursing services.

• Several private insurance plans and self-insured companies include Christian Science nursing and practitioner services as a reimbursable benefit. A few of these companies are AETNA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, CIGNA, Ford, GE, IBM, Intel, and the Tufts Health Plan.

Visit our insurance page for more information on this subject.

Currently, trying to get a claim processed for Christian Science nursing and practitioner services under any of these public or private insurance plans is difficult. There are a number of reasons for this. Overall, a small number of claims are made for Christian Science health care services, so public and private insurers are unfamiliar with them.  In addition, the health care industry’s coding system for electronically processing these claims does not contain accurate codes for Christian Science health care services. As a result, Christian Science insurance claims have to be processed manually, which is a time-consuming and expensive process for insurance providers. We are diligently working to remove these barriers to achieve the efficient processing of health insurance claims by Christian Scientists.

6. Currently, is there any basis on which Christian Scientists may be exempt from the requirement to purchase health insurance under the new law?

Yes, but it depends on their situations. Christian Scientists are not exempt on religious grounds, though various media outlets have incorrectly reported they are. However, under the new legislation, it appears that individuals—including Christian Scientists—who meet the following criteria will not be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty for failing to do so:

• individuals aged 65+ (because they’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A)
• Medicaid recipients
• members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents
• U.S. military retirees

In addition, there are exemptions from the requirement to buy health insurance for the Amish (see FAQ #7), members of health care sharing ministries (another group that objects to having insurance and provides for the health care expenses of its members), Native Americans, and persons eligible for a hardship exemption due to limited income.

7. Isn’t there some kind of general religious exemption from the requirement to purchase health insurance under the legislation?

No. While there is a “religious conscience exemption” from the health insurance mandate, it applies primarily to individuals who are of the Amish faith. The exemption has the following requirements:

• The individual must be a member of a religious group whose tenets and teachings establish that its members are conscientiously opposed to receiving any benefits of private or public insurance, including Social Security and Medicare benefits.
• The individual must waive all Social Security and Medicare benefits.
• The religious organization must pay for the health care and disability costs of its members.

8. Why did Congress agree to provide a religious exemption for the Amish and not for Christian Scientists?

The ACA religious exemption language was lifted directly from a preexisting exemption included in the Internal Revenue Code, which excluded the Amish and other religious groups from participating in Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs. This exception for the Amish carried over to the ACA because the Amish have a religious objection to carrying insurance of any kind. Furthermore, the Amish often provide for the health care expenses of their own members.

9. What are state exchanges?

The ACA generally requires that all states have health insurance exchanges in place by January 2014. Essentially, state exchanges are health insurance marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and enroll in insurance plans (and can find out if they are eligible for federal subsidies to purchase insurance). Massachusetts and Utah already had exchanges in place before the ACA was passed (Massachusetts’s is most similar to the ACA concept of a state exchange). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has left a fair amount of discretion to the states regarding the creation of their individual exchanges, but if a state fails to create an exchange, it falls to HHS to provide it.

10. Did the Church consider participating in the U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the health care law?

The Church weighed very carefully and prayerfully the idea of filing an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief. Two of the factors that led to the ultimate decision not to file a brief were that the none of the lawsuits that were before the U.S. Supreme Court for decision raised any claims involving freedom of religion, and secondly, the Court itself did not designate religious freedom as an issue it wanted the attorneys to brief. (See our article on the Supreme Court oral arguments for more information about the four issues the Supreme Court agreed to hear.) Additionally, though several religious challenges to the law were filed in the lower federal courts (e.g., Mead v. Holder, 766 F. Supp. 2d 16 (2011), and Liberty v. Geithner, 753 F. Supp. 2d 611 (2011)), none had made its way up to the Supreme Court for oral argument, briefing, and hearing.

11. Has the Church considered filing a lawsuit to challenge the health care reform law?

Christian Scientists are neither accommodated nor exempted under the Affordable Care Act. That’s an anomaly because there’s a longstanding history of accommodation and recognition of Christian Science health care services by the federal government. In view of that significant precedent, the Church has chosen for now to participate in the democratic process, working with the Administration and Congress to resolve the dilemma facing Christian Scientists under the ACA, rather than filing suit. Truly, our willingness to work in this way has earned us much good will and has provided significant opportunities to provide accurate information about Christian Science. We’re encouraged by the good progress we’re making.The democratic process can be very rewarding, yet it always requires patience. We will continue to stand firmly for religious liberty; and the Church preserves all options regarding its response to the ACA.

12. Would the Serving Christian Scientists, Inc (“SCS”) plans qualify under the health care reform law?

We recommend that you be in touch with SCS directly about this. As it stands now, it looks like the SCS benefit plans do not cover all of the benefit categories that must be covered by a qualifying plan under the Affordable Care Act. This is true not just of SCS’s plans, but other “high deductible” insurance plans too. That said, it’s possible that SCS could adjust their insurance offerings before 2014 to meet the new standards and regulations that are still being written.

13. Is there a religious accommodation regarding elder care in the health care reform law?

Yes. The legislation creates a new Elder Justice program to help prevent the neglect of elders. This section provides that nothing in the new law is intended to interfere with an elder’s right to practice his or her religion through reliance on prayer alone for healing. This religious accommodation was originally contained in the Older Americans Act and has been a part of several elder justice bills.

14. Does the existing accommodation for Christian Science practitioners and Readers under the Social Security law still continue?

Yes. The new legislation does not appear to affect the ability of Christian Science practitioners and Readers to claim an exemption from paying into and receiving benefits from the Social Security system. The practitioner or Reader must file a form with the Internal Revenue Service that states that he or she is conscientiously opposed to receiving the benefits of any public insurance.

15. I’m already enrolled in Medicare Part A—do I need to purchase additional insurance to meet the requirements of the ACA?

No. Medicare Part A satisfies the ACA’s “individual mandate” requirement.