Written by Don Byrd
The U.S. House yesterday sent a measure to the Senate that would expand the religious exemption in the Affordable Care Act’s individual coverage mandate. As currently written, the ACA exempts any individual that is a “member of a recognized religious sect… and an adherent of established tenets… by reason of which he is conscientiously opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any public or private insurance.” This allows members of faiths that object to medical treatment on religious grounds avoid having to purchase insurance.
The Hill’s Floor Action blog explains how the House amendment would broaden that exemption:
People seeking an exemption would have to include sworn statements in their tax returns explaining their objection to health insurance.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who sponsored the bill, said ObamaCare currently exempts only those people who are part of a major religion, which leaves no room for others who also believe they must be exempted.
“Today’s bill must become law,” he said. “Among the many problems with the Affordable Care Act, the current conscience exemption only protects religious exemptions of a few select faiths.”
The bill says anyone who gets a religious exemption and then seeks medical treatment would have their exemption revoked. But Waxman said the IRS would have no way of monitoring people who later decide to seek treatment.
Opponents to HR 1814 (pdf) – the Equitable Access to Care and Health Act – argue the measure will be extremely difficult to enforce, because it would require the IRS to police “sincerely held religious beliefs.”