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January 04, 2010

Amish to avoid health insurance purchase requirement?

The health plan which passed the Senate on Christmas Eve provides for substantial fines for individuals who do not purchase health insurance. 

This article examines how the Amish, who do not use insurance outside of some forms of church coverage, may negotiate an eventual purchase requirement. 

A religious exemption exists, and Donald Kraybill explains that a probable requirement for opting out will be “a long-standing historical exemption based on religious beliefs.”  Such a condition would likely be fulfilled by the 1965 exemption of the Amish from Social Security.

Numerous polls show the legislation under consideration as unpopular with the American public. 

Critics contend this is at least partially to do with the additional government control exerted on individuals, such as this proposed fine, which varies from $750 in the Senate plan, to 2.5% of an individual's income in the House plan (with some income-based exemptions).

Amish have come under criticism in the past by those disagreeing with the religious basis for their exemptions from institutions such as the military or Social Security. 

If a bill with such a mandate becomes law, and assuming the Amish do work out an exemption, I imagine opponents of the bill will look on them and other religiously-exempt groups with envy, at the least.


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read a short article in WSJ that this requirement is unconstitutional- The federal government cannot 'require' that citizens of the US be insured for health- only the states have this right (like individual states can require you to buy car insurance-the federal government cannot) It will be interesting to see if this is challenged in the courts-which I suspect it will.

Erik, do you know how the Amish in Canada negotiate health care? My understanding is that in Canada, all citizens have access to health care through paying taxes--is this considered "insurance"?

Yes Mary I have seen that point made as well.

I'm actually a bit skeptical as to whether the Amish will be able to avoid the fine, assuming this goes through. The $750 seems harsh but 2.5% of income potentially much worse for some. As it stands it seems they will have the choice (privilege?) of opting out of insurance, they'll just have to pay for it, like anyone else would. And if the 2.5% is what ends up in the final bill, that means some (business owners in particular) will pay thousands.

So they wouldn't be forced to participate in this situation, as would be the case with Social Security, but they will have to pay penalties in exchange. But who knows what the final legislation will look like and even if it will pass.

Hi Emily, thanks for the question, it is a good one. I need to dig a bit more as I don't have an answer offhand, not sure how they divvy up the taxes in Canada and how the Amish fit in exactly...highly doubtful though that they receive benefits even though they may pay in.

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