WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow Americans exemptions from purchasing insurance under Obamacare if their religious beliefs prohibit them from doing so.
The Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act (H.R. 1814) was introduced by Representative Aaron Shock (R-Ill) and was backed with the support of 216 co-sponsors. The purpose of the bill is to “amend section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an additional religious exemption from the individual health coverage mandate.”
According to the legislation, waivers would be granted to anyone who “files a sworn statement, as part of the return of tax for the taxable year, that the individual was not covered under minimum essential coverage at any time during such taxable year and that the individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs would cause the individual to object to medical health care that would be covered under such coverage.”
However, if the person received medical care in the year prior, the exemption would be denied. Chiropractic care, dental services, midwifery services and optometry appointments would not count against the individual.
“Congress today reinforced basic constitutional protections for sincere believers of all faiths. Among the many problems with Obamacare are the insufficient safeguards for people of faith,” Shock said in a statement following the passage of the Act. “H.R. 1814 provides a strong provision that guarantees First Amendment religious liberties for all Americans while protecting U.S. taxpayers from potential fraud. Congress has long sought to uphold both these commitments, and has again today affirmed our founding principles.”
“Congress is not likely to reach agreement today—or any day—on the underlying law. Obamacare is as controversial now as it was when it was enacted, and perhaps more so,” he continued. “But we do agree that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. On that, the American people can be assured there is strong bipartisan agreement.”
The bill will now head to the Senate for a vote.
While some Americans may seek an exemption from the insurance requirement altogether, many Christians are choosing rather to enroll in a health sharing ministry, which would avoid the payment of funds towards abortion services. As previously reported, the Affordable Care Act exempts members of Christian health sharing ministries, of which there are three: Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries and Christian Healthcare Ministries.
“There are some mandates that are written in the law regarding the coverage of contraception and abortion that certainly many Bible-believing Christians are going to have objection to,” Tony Meggs, president of Medi-Share, told Christian News Network. “Healthcare sharing ministries are an acceptable and legal alternative to those insurance mandates that require insurance carriers to cover medical services that Christians would find objectionable.”
“It’s a great option for people of faith to provide for healthcare needs without insurance. It’s affordable, it’s Biblical and it’s personal,” James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan Ministries, agreed. “Insurance and healthcare has generally become much less personal over the years, but having those notes and cards come in from other members when you’re sick, being able to know exactly where your money is going—those are all blessings to our members that we’re all excited about.”