No doubt a lot more people tuned into the NCAA’s Final Four games than heard the Supreme Court’s health care reform hearings held last week. Yet, as important as these games are to players, coaches, and bracket-watchers alike, crowning a new college basketball champ takes second place to a legal ruling that’s bound to impact nearly everyone living in the U.S.
Although not nearly as exciting as most sports are, health care is still a high-ranking draw. It’s the number one online search topic for people across all age groups, with Yahoo Health, the National Institutes of Health, and WebMD each attracting about 20 million unique visitors a month. That’s roughly 5 million more than watched each of last year’s two Final Four games.
The most commonly searched topics relate to specific diseases or medical problems—What do I have? How do I treat it? Who can help? Not far behind is the question: How am I going to pay for it?
Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, this last question could very well shoot to the top of the list.
As the law now stands, beginning in 2014, every American must purchase health insurance or pay a fine equal to 2.5 percent of their income, with a few exceptions for the poor, the elderly, and some others.
For many, a government requirement to have health insurance isn’t a big deal; either they already have insurance from their employer or they can afford to pay for it out-of-pocket. For others, it’s less a question of cost than it is of value, especially when the insurance they’re offered or required to buy doesn’t cover the type of treatment they’re accustomed to using—and have found to be effective.
For example, a woman here in the San Francisco Bay Area, who happens to work for a major health insurance company, suffers from chronic back pain due to an injury she received in a car accident many years ago. Her employer is happy to cover 100% of a treatment that she’s found to be only marginally effective, but only 20% for the acupuncture treatments that she swears she can’t live with out.
There are others who see something missing, including those who have found physical and emotional improvement in their lives through a spiritual practice.
Research studies and clinical reports on the health benefits of spiritual practices have been widely published, and from my own experience as a Christian Scientist I can attest to the positive effect that spiritually based care can have. This would seem to challenge then the old health care model that acknowledges only drug-based treatments as beneficial.
Some government-mandated insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program take into account the wide range of health practices of Americans and have covered these various types of care—including spiritual care—for decades. There’s no reason private insurance companies can’t do the same.
Maybe now that the college basketball season is over we’ll all have more time to pay attention to what’s going on in the health care reform arena, where a game in which there should be no losers plays on.
Eric Nelson is a Los Altos resident. This article originally appeared on The Washington Times web site.