House OKs Bill To Expand Individual Mandate’s Religious Exemptions
In a bipartisan voice vote on Tuesday, the House passed legislation (HR 1814) that would broaden religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, allowing individuals to forgo coverage if it compromised their religious beliefs, the Wall Street Journal reports (Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal, 3/11).
The bill -- called the Equitable Access to Care and Health Act -- would allow individuals citing religious reasons to remain uninsured without facing fines under the ACA. The bill was considered under a suspension of the rules, meaning it needed a two-thirds majority vote to advance. According to The Hill's "Floor Action," the bill's "easy passage" means the Senate could consider it (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 3/11).
According to CQ Roll Call, individuals seeking a religious exemption from the individual mandate would be required in their tax returns to include sworn statements that note:
- Their "sincerely held religious beliefs" make them object to medical care; and
- They were not covered under any sort of health coverage during the year.
Medical care under the bill refers to voluntary treatment overseen by a physician that is included under the ACA's coverage requirements, but does include vaccinations or certain other types of care, CQ Roll Call reports (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 3/11).
According to the Journal, the measure is "largely aimed" at Christian Scientists, who reached out to the bill's sponsor -- Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) -- with concerns that they did not qualify for the ACA's current religious exemption allowances. The law currently contains a provision that allows for religious exemptions, but Schock argued that it is "just not clear enough" and is too narrowly crafted, the Journal reports.
Christian Scientists use prayer to address health concerns, although a church spokesperson said the religion does not specifically ban traditional medical care (Wall Street Journal, 3/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.