Religious Conscience Exemption of the Health Reform Law

Recently, I gave a presentation on Islamic Sharia law and its impact on American jurisprudence.  During that lecture, I discussed the many different areas of law where Sharia and religion in general interplay with our legal system.  One of those areas was the health reform law.

By now, most folks are familiar with the health reform law.  With all its intricacies and provisions, there has certainly been plenty to debate, discuss and litigate.  One of the law’s most contested provisions include the government mandate to purchase health insurance and the penalty for being uninsured.

What most folks don’t know about the health reform law is the Religious Conscience Exemption to the mandate.  The law contains a provision which establishes guidelines under which religious groups which have established conscientious objections to certain forms of insurance may seek exemption from health insurance requirements.

A key issue will be the determination of which religious groups’ members might qualify for this exemption, a question for which there is no clear answer.  Such members would have to be followers of a religion or sect described in section 1402(g)(1) if the IRS Code, which governs exemptions from the payment of social security and medicare taxes on self-employment income.   (There are those who believe that under the current requirements in the IRS code, the Amish are the only group who would likely qualify for a health insurance exemption.  Others disagree.) To qualify for the exemption, the sect would have to have been in existence continuously since Dec. 31, 1950.

Assuming the insurance mandate survives the court challenges, it does not go in effect until 2014.  So there is plenty of time to prepare arguments as to which religions will get the exemption and which ones will not.




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