Bipartisan House Bill Would Add Religious Exemption to Obamacare Mandate

Matt Cover | November 21, 2012 | 1:24pm EST
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Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) (AP Photo)

( – A bipartisan bill in the House would expand the religious exemption to the insurance mandate in Obamacare, allowing those with a religious objection to absolve themselves of the mandate’s health insurance requirement with an affidavit.

Introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), the bill has drawn co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle, including Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Todd Akin (R-Mo.) Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

The bill would allow anyone to be exempt from the individual mandate so long as they filed an affidavit along with their tax returns that “sincerely held religious beliefs” would cause them “to object to the medical health care that would be covered under such coverage.”

The issue of religious exemptions gained prominence late last year when the U.S. Catholic Church raised objections to a federal regulation that all insurance companies provide contraception without co-pay.

The church said that the regulation would violate the religious beliefs of Catholics, because Obamacare forced them to buy insurance that would now pay for contraception, which the Catholic Church believes to be immoral.

The regulations included a narrow religious exemption that would cover only churches and other religious institutions. After a public outcry over the narrow exemption, the Obama administration announced it would expand it, but has yet to produce this compromise.

The House bill would solve this issue by allowing anyone who swears they have a religious objection to insurance coverage to opt out of the mandate.

To prevent people from abusing the religious exemption, the opt-out would be voided if an individual voluntarily used health care services that would have been covered under an insurance plan.

“[The opt-out] shall not apply to an individual…if the individual received medical health care during the taxable year,” the bill reads.

The bill exempts non-voluntary treatments, dental care, optometry, chiropractic care, required physicals, midwifery, and vaccines.

In other words, anyone seeking a religious exemption can get one by simply attesting each year that they have religious objections to any health care service covered by health insurance but can lose that exemption if they voluntarily receive health care that that insurance would have covered.

If an individual loses their exemption and still refuses to carry insurance, they would then have to pay the tax penalty for being uninsured.

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