Healthcare Answers: Religious Exemptions to Healthcare Reform

Janiva Toler
Executive Director
Answers Your Questions on Healthcare

Question: Under health care reform, will a Christian Scientist be required to buy health insurance if not already covered? There are a lot of rumors about a religious exemption.

Answer: It is understandable that Christian Scientists would be interested in the religious exemption offered in the health care reform legislation. In 2014 the health care reform law requires that everyone must purchase health insurance (although there are some exceptions for low-income people) or face an annual fine. Faced with the option of either purchasing health insurance that doesn’t cover Christian Science nursing or practitioners or paying a penalty, the religious exemption has drawn a great deal of interest.

In the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama is a general provision titled “religious conscience exemption”. This provision may exempt individuals from health insurance requirements if they are members of religions that have established conscientious objections to certain forms of insurance.

RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCE EXEMPTION.—Such term shall not include any individual for any month if such individual has in effect an exemption under section 1311(d)(4)(H) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which certifies that such individual is a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof described in section 1402(g)(1) and an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division as described in such section.

This provision does not specifically exempt members from any one religion from health insurance requirements. The determination of which religion’s members might qualify for this exemption has yet to be determined. Since the requirements for purchasing insurance or paying a penalty do not kick in until 2014, it is reasonable to assume that the regulations regarding this exemption will not be spelled out for some time.

For more detailed information on the internet rumors regarding the religious conscience exemption check out snopes.com. On the AARP website they stated that a spokeswoman from the Treasury Department that will be handling the exemption requests confirmed that no religious groups have received or been promised exemptions at this time.

2 Responses to Healthcare Answers: Religious Exemptions to Healthcare Reform

  1. Sylvia Hill says:

    Thanks for your information. I look forward to receiving more details
    about exemption for Christian Scientists. S. Hill I am not sure about
    the above question as to website – I do not use Twitter or Facebook
    and feel that they are not good venues.

    • Janiva says:

      We appreciate hearing from you and we will be publishing questions and answers on health care reform on a regular basis. The websites I mention in my blog refer to two websites with more detail on the “religious conscience exemption”. Snopes.com is a site that researches and publishes information on rumors and the aarp.com site has an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.
      We welcome your questions as well.

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