Members of Some Religious Groups will be Exempt from Individual Mandate in Health Care Reform.

January 18, 2010

While the future of healthcare reform is unclear, especially pending the results of the special election for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts tomorrow, one thing is sure; some Americans will be exempted from the so-called “individual mandate” that requires individuals to carry health insurance or face a financial penalty. According to Open Congress, the two groups exempted under the legislation as passed (and subject to change as Democrats attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills) are the Amish and Christian Scientists.

The exemption of the Amish makes sense. As a society, the Amish choose not to participate in many aspects of American government, essentially comprising their own society separate from that of most Americans. They have never had to pay Social Security taxes, since they do not choose to receive benefits from it. Both the house and Senate health care bills acknowledge this by using the same language in the tax code that exempts them from paying payroll taxes. (referred to as a “religious conscience” objection) The Amish reject technology in general on the basis of their religious practice (the Anabaptist Christian movement), and forcing them to accept health insurance would be forcing them to accept care from a primarily technological source. Thus, this exemption is consistent with prior exemptions for the Amish people.

On the other hand, the language in the Senate bill would extend the religious conscience exemption to other groups, such as Christian Scientists on the basis that they commonly object to evidence based medical treatments in favor of faith based “healing” techniques, so called “spiritual care.” This exemption is not the same as the one provided to the Amish. Where the Amish object to technology and its benefits and perils in general, Christian Scientists only object to one facet of technology, and they do so because they believe modern medicine is less effective than prayer. Granting a religious exemption to Christian Scientists would, in effect, allow preferential treatment by the government for a particular religious creed, a clear violation of the Establishment Clause.

The full article can be found here .

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