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Affordable Care Act, Religious Exemptions Explained

(KOLR10) – The Affordable Care Act requires individuals to have a minimum level of health insurance starting January 1, 2014. But there are some religious exemptions.
(KOLR10)– The Affordable Care Act requires individuals to have a minimum level of health insurance starting January 1, 2014. If you don’t, you have to pay a penalty. However, there are some exemptions. Among those listed are religious exemptions. They don’t drive cars and largely avoid other technology. Now, they are avoiding Obamacare.

“The Amish, historically, have opposed that,” says Kevin Pybas, a political science professor at Missouri State University. “They are largely self-sustaining communities.”

The Amish are allowed to opt out of Obamacare, along with most federal assistance programs.

“The exemption is not written for the Amish,” says Pybas. “It is written for any group who meets the requirements in the description.”

In 1965, Congress passed a law giving them the right to opt out of Social Security, Medicaid and many other government benefits. The Obamacare exemption is an extension of the Social Security exemption.

"Anyone who is exempt religiously under the Social Security statute will also be exempt here,” says Pybas.

Members of a "recognized religious sect or division," as specified in section 1402 of the internal revenue code, are exempt. This exemption would include the Amish. These sects must have been in existence since at least December 31, 1950.

"To sort of prevent everybody from coming out of the closet claiming that they're suddenly opposed to this," says Pybas.

It's not that the Amish reject health insurance; these close-knit communities basically insure themselves.

"They don't look to government, or outside third party providers,” says Pybas. “They had to claim conscientious objection to insurance."

Pybas says you must have proof and show that you have a history of self-sustenance in order to be exempt.

"If you start creating exemptions that are too easy to claim or obtain, then that ultimately will hollow out the law itself,” he says.

Some religious groups feel this law is not fair. Pybas says that may be true.

"But the opportunity is there for them to make the claim,” says Pybas.

For a full list of people or groups exempt from Obamacare's mandate, click here.
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