Monday, July 12, 2010

Religious Exemptions in Health Reform

Read all about it! Healing through prayer covered by insurance! Sorry had to do it. Whatever over-simplification I am making is still cause for concern. I recently sent a pre-written letter to my representatives voicing my opinion that Christian prayer should not be covered through the new healthcare legislature. If people are supposed to be paying deductibles and premiums that are going into a pool that is encompassing this pseudo-science, then everyone should be raising their voices. Here is a letter from Sherrod Brown (OH), United States Senator in response:

Dear Mr. DiBattista:

Thank you for getting in touch with me regarding religious exemptions in health reform.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, requires that individuals and their dependents have health insurance coverage beginning in 2014. If an individual chooses not to obtain health insurance after 2014, he or she will have to pay a fine that is either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of income.

As you mention in your letter, some religious doctrines forbid medical treatment or specific medical procedures. Followers of these religions believe that receiving certain medical treatments would violate their First Amendment right to exercise their religion freely.

Therefore, the PPACA includes a religious conscience exemption, which states that the health insurance requirement does not apply to any individual who belongs to a recognized religious sect or division that is “conscientiously opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any private or public insurance which makes payments in the event of death, disability, old-age, or retirement or makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care.”

This exemption does not apply to one specific religious group. Rather, in order to qualify for a religious exemption, individuals must demonstrate that they have rejected participation in public benefit programs like Social Security and that their beliefs have been in effect for a significant amount of time. Regulations concerning the exact process by which religious exemptions will be awarded are forthcoming from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This exemption attempts to strike a balance between the constitutional right to religious freedom and the public policy imperative that there be broad participation in private insurance risk pools in order to keep costs down for everyone. Please know that I am closely monitoring the implementation of the new health reform law and will not hesitate to pursue improvements should they be needed.

Thank you again for getting in touch with me.


Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

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