Important ACA Updates

Important ACA Updates

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

Beginning in 2014, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), virtually all Americans will need to have a medical health insurance plan that meets federal requirements, or pay a tax penalty. (Those who are enrolled in Medicare or another government health plan will be treated as complying with the law; those enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan should check with their employer to confirm whether the plan is ACA-compliant.) So, like other Americans, Christian Scientists must think through their options under the ACA and how to comply with the law. This information, from the Federal Committee on Publication office, provides some helpful information to understand and plan for these health care requirements:

Christian Science coverage not included in state exchanges for 2014

As you know, over the past two years, the U.S. Federal Office has diligently worked to secure the inclusion of Christian Science health care services in health insurance plans offered at the state insurance marketplaces. We are deeply grateful for governmental receptivity to insurance coverage of this kind.

However, because of the time crunch that insurance carriers experienced due to state and federal governmental delays, it ultimately was not possible for Christian Science health care services to be included in the state exchanges for 2014.

Congressional exemption solution still uncertain

The U.S. Federal Office continues to pursue a legislative solution with Congress that would enable those with sincerely held religious beliefs against purchasing the required medical insurance to apply for an exemption.

There is strong support for this solution among Members of Congress; however, we cannot guarantee that Congress will act on the legislation this year. As always, please consult our website for periodic updates, and let us know if you’d like to help with these efforts!

2014 ACA decision flow chart

Looking for some guidance as you think through your options regarding the health care reform law in 2014? Check out this flow chart we’ve created for informational purposes (the Church does not provide legal advice).

Take the Leap?

Take the Leap?

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

This blog was originally published September 22, 2011, and it’s information that is still pertinent today. The discussion on overtreatment continues!

Sometimes when I’m talking about health with friends and neighbors who don’t know me well the conversation will turn toward a health problem or concern that someone experienced. Like it or not, I’m generally asked about my experience, which is when I politely mention that I handle my health problems through prayer. Recently, when a reporter asked me how I took care of my health needs and I mentioned by prayer, she wanted to know about check ups and prevention. I’m finding however that I’m not alone – there are a great number of individuals finding reasons for not jumping for expensive medical treatments before alternative methods are tried, such as physical therapy and spirituality.

In an article written by Jordon Rau titled, “Hospitals Have Got Your Back, Maybe a Little Too Quickly,” Medicare data was presented that stated “that among states, Minnesota had the highest average rate of MRI back scans without prior interventions, at 40.9% percent. Wyoming was second, followed by Arkansas, West Virginia, Utah, and Montana.” This data indicates a high use of expensive medical services without preliminary and/or non-invasive alternatives.

It seems that budget slicing, at least with Medicare, doctors, and hospitals, are coming under scrutiny as to not only how to cut costs but how to practice better health care. Recently, Newsweek carried an article by Sharon Begley titled, “One Word Can Save Your Life: No!” I think I would be safe in stating that the essence of this article was that alternative methods of health care should be explored and that more health care is not necessarily better health care. Author Begley quotes Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of Medicine of the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, as stating, “there are many areas in medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.”

The public should be aware of the effectiveness of the mind-body and spiritual alternatives. A You-Tube presentation by 15-year Pharmaceutical Representative, Gwen Olsen, urges all Americans to become much more knowledgeable about the long term effects of drugs on the individual’s health and alternative options available to them. It does seem that there are many thoughtful ways that health care can be managed and that one of the most unexplored is alternative care.

Fruitage From the Field

Fruitage From the Field

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

I wanted to share with you one of the Committee on Publication’s thoughts on the recent Capitol Hill Day. Katie Brown, Committee on Publication from Indiana, gives us a glimpse of the excitement that she felt when sharing with Congresspeople  and Congressional staff members the importance of an alternative to the current health system based on matter:

Going to Washington, DC, really was a grand time! To quote the Student’s Reference Dictionary (SRD), “In general, we apply the epithet grand to that which is great and elevated, or which elevates and expands our ideas” (p. 453).

These meetings with Indiana Congressional offices certainly served to elevate others’ thought as we shared that there is an effective health care system that is not based on matter. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Material methods are temporary, and are not adapted to elevate mankind” (p. 318:26).

What joy to bring to our representatives and their staffs this expanded view of health care available forever to all humanity!

To read this post on the Federal Office site, click here: Fruitage from the Field: Katie Sue Brown on Capitol Hill

Opportunities Abound

Opportunities Abound

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

On this national 4th of July holiday I want to share with you an opportunity for service – the Government Relations Division of the Christian Science Federal Office is again looking for interns for Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. On January 12, 2012 I ran a blog written by Virginia Early, 2011 government relations intern, on her thoughts about the work to include spiritual care in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And the work needs to continue! Here is the information from the Federal Office on their intern program:

We encourage college students and recent graduates to apply for one of our internship opportunities!

As members of the Government Relations Division team, interns assist in supporting Committee on Publication work at the U.S. state, U.S. federal, and international levels, as well as in representing the interests of Christian Science on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Candidates should be eager to participate in furthering the Committee on Publication’s mission “to correct in a Christian manner impositions on the public in regard to Christian Science” (Manual p. 97).

Interns participate in a wide array of activities including various administrative duties, database and spreadsheet work, research, presentations, scheduling and joining division staff at meetings with U.S. Congressional offices, working with Church members from around the U.S., and more.

The Government Relations Division internship offers an excellent opportunity for individuals who would like to acquire experience working with government. It is a full-time position, requiring up to 37.5 hours per week.

The internship is available throughout the year, during the fall, spring, and summer. Please note the following application deadlines:

  • July 11, 2013: deadline for Fall 2013 internship applications
  • October 11, 2013: deadline for Spring 2014 internship applications

For more information or to apply, please see the internship posting on The Mother Church’s careers page or email jobs@csps.com.

To read this post on the Federal Office site and to read experiences from interns who have served from 2010-2013, click here: Government Relations Division Internships

Capitol Hill Meetings Bring Blessings

Capitol Hill Meetings Bring Blessings

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

I mentioned last month an effort by Christian Scientists to meet Members of Congress to discuss health care reform in our annual Capitol Hill Day. The Federal Office has posted an update on these efforts:

Over the past four years, we’ve had the privilege of working with many Christian Scientists throughout the country—from Hawaii to Maine—who have volunteered their time in coming to Washington, DC, to meet with Members of Congress. They’ve carved out time from their workweeks, vacations in DC, and family time to advocate for Christian Science.

Last month, we worked with over 100 such individuals in DC at the same time—“Capitol Hill Day 2013”. Over the course of two days, they met with over 300 Congressional offices to ask for their support of solutions for Christian Scientists!

The value of the event has been very clear, as we began relationships with new offices and built on existing ones with others. This effort resulted in many more Members of Congress actively supporting solutions for Christian Scientists.

It’s wonderful to see so tangibly the fruits of these meetings! And it seems that the Christian Scientists who have participated have found the experience meaningful, too—and even fun. But you don’t have to take our word for it:

The diversity of church members who have been a part of these kinds of meetings on Capitol Hill is tremendous! As Houston architect Carlos Machado notes, “working with other Christian Scientists from very diverse backgrounds and seeing each one of them shine in different ways during the meeting days” was one of the highlights of his experience on the Hill.

Carlos also says that he was “very grateful for the care expressed by the members of Congress and their staff…[and] left DC with a much deeper appreciation for the work being done by government officials.”

He’s not the only one who’s come away from these meetings with this type of newfound appreciation. Mimi Oka, who lives in New York City, is a Christian Science practitioner with a background in investment banking and performance art. Earlier this year, she came to us with an offer to come to DC and meet with some Members of Congress she and her husband know personally. Reflecting on her time trekking around the Hill, Mimi says the meetings “made me appreciate our democracy, the dedication of our elected officials, that we can really get past the fractious nature of partisan politics, that Christian Science really benefited from the support of core values enshrined in our constitution.”

Californian Rob Hummel says he felt “gratitude…for the opportunity to be able to participate and play a small part in this activity in supporting our church” during his two meeting-filled days. In fact, Rob, who has had a career in motion pictures that includes cinematography, visual effects, post production, and involvement with restoration of films like The Wizard of Oz, ended up canceling a speaking engagement in London to join us on Capitol Hill!

It can be incredibly rewarding to participate in a meeting. Pennsylvania Committee on Publication Debby Kowit shares, “It was heartwarming to interact with those who expressed a genuine interest in what we had to say.” Debby has joined us in DC more than once, and was very pleased to discover during her latest trip that several of the offices remembered the previous meetings!

We are deeply grateful for the extraordinary support from the Field over the past several years and as we continue to move forward as well!

To read this post on the Federal Office site, click here: The blessings of meetings on Capitol Hill

Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

Recently, many from Southern California traveled to Washington D. C. to visit with members of congress or their legislative staff members to discuss health care reform.  I’m sure in the near future we will receive reports from these individuals and I will share their comments with you.  In the meantime, you will find the following on the Federal Office web site as a reminder that work is on going and as new information becomes available it will be shared with you:

For more than three years, the U.S. Federal Office has been actively engaged in the conversation about health care reform on Capitol Hill to represent the unique perspective of Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services—and we are making excellent progress.

Under the 2010 health care law—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA)—most Americans will be required to purchase health insurance by 2014 (except, for example, those who are enrolled in Medicare Part A). For Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services, there is a looming inequity: the required health insurance will likely not include the type of care they use, nor does the law provide for a religious exemption that meets their needs.

To remedy this situation, the U.S. Federal Office is pursuing several approaches that have been well-received, including these:

  • Requesting that the federal and state governments include coverage of Christian Science practitioner and nursing services in the benefits that will be offered by health insurance plans through the state insurance exchanges. Given the intent of PPACA to provide coverage for all, it seems fair that the law meet the “essential” health needs of all individuals regardless of faith. This would be consistent with the long history of government accommodations for Christian Science health services in Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.
  • Seeking a legislative solution with Congress that would allow anyone with a “sincerely held religious belief” against purchasing the mandated health insurance to be exempted from the requirement. The current religious exemption in PPACA gives preference to a few select faiths—allowing the Amish, the Mennonites, and Health Care Sharing Ministries to opt out—without respecting the rights of all faiths. We believe the rights of religious minorities should be respected when it comes to their health care decisions.

We’re very grateful for the many members of Congress who have actively worked on behalf of Christian Scientists in both of these efforts, and we appreciate the continued effective engagement and support of Christian Scientists and their friends as we move forward. If you would like to be in touch with us about health care reform, please feel free to email us at federal@christianscience.com, or find out more about what you can do to get involved.

The Spice of Life

The Spice of Life

© GLOW IMAGES

A guest post written by Susan Spears

Article originally posted September 29, 2011

Ever hear that phrase, “variety is the spice of life?” While I was driving home the other day I got to thinking about variety and by extension, choice. It’s amazing what avenues your mind will travel when you let it. First I noticed how many types of cars there are. We may have started with just one type of Ford when cars were invented, but the wide array of choices available today shows where our imaginations and industry can take us. Then I was admiring the different styles of homes that I was passing by. Sure – lots of stucco – but also brick, wood, and stone. Then I started thinking about almost the infinite variety of things that have variety – books, clothes, professions, landscaping, colors – and the list goes on! Try it. It’s actually a fun exercise.

But my point is that we as a people thrive on this variety to give us expression and to stimulate and excite us. If not, we would be like the Borg on Star Trek, where we’re assimilated into a society of uniformity. Or we would be like the people on Camazotz in A Wrinkle in Time, where everyone is controlled by one brain named It. I’m sure there are many more stories out there about conformity and reduction in choices and freedom. Why? Because they are cautionary tales. And we don’t want to lose our individuality.

And that idea brings me back to my musings while driving. I am extremely grateful for the infinite variety of variety. But I also see an area that could use some variety and choice. That area is in health care. Not everyone uses the medical model for their health care needs. But in terms of health care reform, spiritual care, which is my health care of choice, is not included.

Let’s keep this choice available for those who would like to use it.

What Does it Take to Be a Wise Health Consumer?

What Does it Take to Be a Wise Health Consumer?

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Ingrid Peschke, legislative liaison for Christian Science and spirituality in Massachusetts

More people are asking themselves this question in part because of the newly mandated healthcare law, or Affordable Care Act, and in part because health care in the United States isn’t exactly delivering on the goods.

“We have a disease care system, not a health care system,” says Shannon Brownlee, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer. “And the disease care system . . . if it really was honest with itself, it doesn’t want you to die and it doesn’t want you to get well. It just wants you to keep coming back for your care of your chronic disease.”

The title of a report published a few weeks ago by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine speaks volumes: “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.”

The report states, “The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries.”

According to new health rankings, the United States is last in a ranking of 17 nations. (Atlantic Monthly)

As a participant in the upcoming Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Boston, I’ve followed some of the email discussion threads healthcare journalists are having on the subject of accurately covering health news. One journalist had these points to make:

When looking at health information/research look skeptically at the “evidence.”

Always ask your healthcare professional if s/he knows of ways you can help/heal yourself without or with a minimum of professional intervention (“treatment”). Then ask for options to the recommended treatment(s).

This last bullet could include complementary or alternative forms of medicine–which, according to some estimates, about 70% of Americans seek annually.

One largely overlooked method, but steadily gaining traction is spiritual care–or treatment that acknowledges the health benefits of prayer. It’s a method I’ve practiced for years as a student of Christian Science, which acknowledges the mental nature of disease and provides the spiritual teaching that leads to restored health.

Support is steadily growing for this method of spiritual care. According to a study funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Managed Care Outlook, “National Briefs,” January 1, 1999), 55% of Americans said they would choose a health plan that included spiritual and religious healing practices over a plan that did not.

To find out more about this connection between spirituality and health, I spoke recently with Dr. Harold Koenig, director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health and considered the leading expert on the subject. In answer to the question, Do you think more doctors are picking up on the connection between thought/consciousness and health? Dr. Koenig had this to say:

“I’m afraid it’s still about giving people a pill. Our training isn’t to help people understand their health as much as to give them a pill and get them out of the office quickly.”

Despite this sobering picture, Dr. Koenig was quick to add, “Still, there’s a lot of research that emotions influence physiology that could adversely effect or help a patient. Well over 3,000 studies out now suggest that religious involvement/prayer etc. has a connection with a person’s health. They’re not all conclusive, but ⅔ of the studies show this.”

Since stress is the leading cause of doctor visits, dealing with it just might help you avoid the health care system entirely. Women on Twitter have been telling Huff Post their biggest stressors, including one woman who said her biggest stressor was “fear of the flu–not the flu itself, just the fear of it.”

I follow Dr. Lissa Rankin’s blog and find her posts very progressive for a doctor who’s truly rethinking health care on many levels. Her most recent post: “How fear makes you sick.” Both Dr. Rankin and the Twitter responder seem to be recognizing the power of thought in health outcomes.

Perhaps the first place to start is facing fear–fear that illness is inevitable and that there might not be a solution. My daily prayer practice includes facing the fears that try to crowd my thinking and replacing them with an inspired thought I glean from the Bible. Like this one:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). That’s a wise approach anyone can adopt.

Link to Peschke’s blog

About the Federal Office

Federal-Office 2by Don Ingwerson

I wanted to share the updated information about the Committee on Publication Federal Office. I hope you find it informative. It can be found here: http://christianscience.com/member-resources/for-churches/committee-on-publication/u.s.-federal-office/about-the-u.s.-federal-office

The Christian Science Committee on Publication U.S. Federal Office, established in 1943, works with U.S. Congressional, executive, and regulatory offices. Our mission is to help these federal offices and the public gain a more accurate understanding of Christian Science, including its longstanding contribution in the field of healthcare and healing. We also work to ensure that spiritual health care services, such as those provided by Christian Science practitioners, Christian Science nurses, and Christian Science nursing facilities – including the public’s access to them – are not adversely affected by any law.

Confronting adverse legislation in his day, the first Manager of the Committees on Publication, Alfred Farlow, wrote to his colleagues in 1908:

“It seems to me that we will have to give some heed to the elections, make friends with our neighbors who are in the legislating business and lose no opportunity to broaden their sense of fairness and justice.”

For more than three years, the U.S. Federal Office has been speaking with governmental offices about the federal health care reform efforts that culminated in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA). While this law does not yet contain any religious accommodation or exception for Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services for their health, we continue to actively work towards this goal.

If you are interested in helping the U.S. Federal Office, we encourage you to explore various ways of getting involved. Similarly, if you have any questions or suggestions for our work, please do not hesitate to be in touch via telephone at (202) 296-2190 or by sending an email to federal@christianscience.com.

Put a “Be” Before Healthy

Put a "Be" Before Healthy

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Ingrid Peschke, health blogger, legislative liaison for Christian Science and spirituality in Massachusetts

So often the emphasis is on the “doing” not the “being” when it comes to caring for one’s health. People do all sorts of things, from taking daily medications to undergoing treatments and procedures to find out if they are healthy or not. Yet despite all these efforts, health can still be illusive.

All this emphasis on the doing is adding up to a high-cost health care system in the U.S. According to a recent New York Times article, “When it comes to medical care, many patients and doctors believe more is better. But an epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine, and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death.”

I know a woman who juggles a busy family life and active career, while staying physically fit and involved in her community. She recently went through several routine cancer screenings that resulted in a very stressful few weeks. She had a hard time sleeping and concentrating while she waited for the results. They came back negative–a relief, but to which she said, “At least for now…”

According to the Times article, many of these tests create unnecessary complications and a climate of concern. Don’t we all deserve to live life fully without the fear of “what if’s” hanging like a noose around our lives? What about the importance of allowing people to enjoy simply being healthy? Think about it: the state of being means you are participating in the process. It means you are alive, whole, active, thoughtful, present, aware. In a word: Healthy.

As someone who regularly practices spiritual care from what I’ve learned through my study of Christian Science, I’ve gotten used to thinking about maintaining health as a “be.” My daily prayer practice (which to an observer can look a lot like I’m not doing anything) involves quiet contemplation of the spiritual and biblical principles that support good health.

I’ve discussed many of these guiding principles on this blog–and they’re ones others, including medical practitioners, recognize for their health value as well. Practices like choosing forgiveness over resentment, patience over anger, calm instead of stress, happiness instead of gloom. I’ve found that having a deep conviction in Spirit as a guiding power and presence in my life allows me to express these qualities with consistency and confidence.

Placebo studies offer another window into the “doing” culture that has become mainstream in our health care industry. Even sham procedures or sugar pills can produce positive outcomes. Why? In large part because something was “done”–even if it was nothing!

This week I came across a nurse practitioner’s view of spiritual care (see Nursing Course Puts Focus on Spiritual Care). Her comments relate directly to this topic. For the past 10 years, Carol Bradford Mayfield used her skills as a nurse to be a faith community nurse for her church. “As nurses, we are used to doing,” Bradford said. “We’re very task oriented. As faith community nurses, we have to learn how to be (rather) than to do.”

Now she’s putting that experience to work in the classroom, teaching an online continuing education course in faith community nursing at Western Kentucky University. Her course “puts a primary focus on the spiritual care of a patient” where students “learn to listen, rather than talk, as well as provide prayer when appropriate.”

Listening is a key ingredient in effective prayer. Guided by intuition and divine inspiration, prayer is really the doing so we can just be.