May 16, 2013

Expanding the religious liberty argument against ObamaCare

A bill being considered in Congress would allow individuals a religious exemption from ObamaCare. The bill, named the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, would make it so people could opt out of the mandate to buy health insurance by signing a sworn statement saying they have religious objections to some of what is covered by health insurance.

The way the Affordable Care Act currently stands, when it goes into effect in 2014, individuals will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax. This amendment would create away for those whose "sincerely held religious beliefs would cause the individual to object to medical health care that would be covered under such coverage" to not buy health insurance and not pay the tax. The exemption could be used by Catholics and evangelicals who oppose some or all contraceptives, as well as others.

Creating a legal exemption that more than 50 percent of the country could ask for would, presumably, effectively kill health care.

The bill is currently being reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee, but may not ever go to a vote.

Whether or not the EACH Act becomes law, though, it shows another angle of the conflict between those who want universal health care and those who believe that infringes on religious liberty. It's also another way that those opposed to ObamaCare are seeking to undermine it anyway they can before it becomes law.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Congressman Aaron Schock from Peoria, Illinois, who has voted to repeal ObamaCare, and is on record calling the law "deeply flawed."

Schock is considered to be a fiscal conservative, moderate on social issues. He is affiliated with a Conservative Baptist Association church and has positioned himself as someone generally supportive of social conservatives and of the sorts of groups who have have seen ObamaCare as an assault on their religious exercise, but with a stronger emphasis on economics. His main critique of the Democratic health care plan has been its "potential budget busting impact and negative economic consequences." He has said,
I believe that the Affordable Care Act has hurt job creation, burdened small businesses, put government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors, and taken the flexibility away from states like Illinois to make their own health care decisions.
The EACH Act comes at ObamaCare from an entirely different angle, though, having more in common with the scores of non-profit and business lawsuits over the contraception mandate than debates about financial costs and consequence. Those legal battles have, so far, only concerned non-profits and businesses required to provide health care for their employees, though. This bill takes that same argument and makes it on behalf of individuals.

Schock's bill suggests this front of that fight could be dramatically expanded, with millions of individuals claiming health care violates their Constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of their religion.

The EACH act has been co-sponsored by 50 Republicans and 26 Democrats.