As pieces of the nation’s new healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), continue to take effect throughout the country many continue to mount opposition to the new rules. Some of the objections raise questions of religious liberty and many of those revolve around the controversial topics of contraception and access to abortions.
However, one challenge to the ACA raises the question of whether people should carry health insurance at all if they have “sincerely held religious beliefs” that preclude them from seeking medical care. The so-called “Equitable Access to Care and Health Act” is a proposed bill in both the House and Senate. HR 1814 is widely supported by the Christian Science lobby as well as 216 members of the House of Representatives and 30 senators according to an “action alert” on the website of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Christian Scientists typically do not seek healthcare and therefore claim they should not be forced to buy health insurance coverage under the ACA. They are holding a “national call-in” lobbying day on Tuesday, urging supporters to call members of Congress and ask them to support the bill.
Those in opposition to the exemption argue that allowing religious exemptions would set a reckless legal precedent, raise healthcare costs for those who do purchase insurance, and endanger the children of those who refuse medical care.
Rita Swan of the organization, Children’s Healthcare Is A Legal Duty (CHILD), says she worries mainly for the children.
“Our organization has information on hundreds of American children who have died because of their family’s religious objections to medical care. Many others get to the emergency room at the last minute, and their medical care is much more expensive than it would have been if the children had a medical home and routine basic care. HR 1814 increases the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care,” Swan is quoted as saying in the action alert.
Others argue that asking for the exemption may be valid but there is likely a better way to assure that everyone has to put money into a national healthcare system and circumvent the religious questions.
Dr. Don McCanne, writing for the Physicians for a National Health Program, says he understands the objections of Christian Scientists and others and that a universal national plan is the simplest solution.
“Do not fund it based on medical need, but fund it through equitable, progressive tax policies. Under such a system, anyone can decline medical care for whatever reason, religious or otherwise (except if the person's disorder constitutes a genuine threat to public health),” McCanne writes.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is also urging people to call Congress members and oppose HR 1814.