HEALTH REFORM: People with religious objections can opt out
By MARC HELLER
SATURDAY, JANUARY 9, 2010
Hundreds of Amish families in the region are likely to be free from that requirement.
The Amish, as well as some other religious sects, are covered by a "religious conscience" exemption, which allows people with religious objections to insurance to opt out of the mandate. It is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, making its appearance in the final version routine unless there are last-minute objections.
Although the Amish consist of several branches, some more conservative than others, they generally rely upon a community ethic that disdains government assistance. Families rely upon one another, and communities pitch in to help neighbors pay health care expenses.
The Amish population has been growing
in the north country, as well as in
Lawmakers reportedly included the provision at the urging of Amish constituents, although the legislation does not specify that community and the provision could apply to other groups as well, including Old Order Mennonites and perhaps Christian Scientists.
A professor and lawyer at
In her column, Ms. Hamilton
speculated that lobbyists for the
Ms. Hamilton said the exemption could harm the health of children whose families avoid medical care for religious reasons, although the Amish objections relate more to insurance than to medical care itself.
Congressional aides said the exemption is based on a carve-out the Amish have had from Social Security and Medicare taxes since the 1960s. Whether Amish businesses, however, would fall under the bill's mandates is still an open question.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who was a key negotiator on the Senate bill, supports the religious exemption, said a spokesman, Maxwell Young, who called the provision a "no brainer."