Rep. Judy Biggert and 57 cosponsors
November 16, 2012
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Equitable Access to Care and Health Act” or the “EACH Act”.
SEC. 2. ADDITIONAL RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TO HEALTH COVERAGE MANDATE.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Paragraph (2) of section 5000A(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
“(C) ADDITIONAL RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION.—
“(i) IN GENERAL.—Such term shall not include an individual for any month during a taxable year if such individual files a sworn statement, as part of the return of tax for the taxable year, that the individual was not covered under minimum essential coverage at any time during such taxable year and that the individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs would cause the individual to object to medical health care that would be covered under such coverage.
“(ii) NULLIFIED IF RECEIPT OF MEDICAL HEALTH CARE DURING TAXABLE YEAR.-Clause (i) shall not apply to an individual for any month during a taxable year if the individual received medical health care during the taxable year.
“(iii) MEDICAL HEALTH CARE DEFINED.—For purposes of this subparagraph, the term ‘medical health care’ means voluntary health treatment by or supervised by a medical doctor that would be covered under minimum essential coverage and—
“(I) includes voluntary acute care treatment at hospital emergency rooms, walk-in clinics, or similar facilities, and
“(aa) treatment not administered or supervised by a medical doctor, such as chiropractic treatment, dental care, midwifery, personal care assistance, or optometry,
“(bb) physical examinations or treatment where required by law or third parties, such as a prospective employer, and
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect as if included in the amendments made by section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
By Don McCanne, MD
H.R. 6597, the “Equitable Access to Care and Health Act,” is a proposed amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would provide a religious exemption to an individual from a penalty for being uninsured, providing that the individual files a sworn statement, as part of the tax return, that “the individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs would cause the individual to object to medical health care that would be covered” under health plans mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
If any medical care were obtained, that would nullify the exemption, and penalties for being uninsured would apply. Theoretically, that would separate those whose religious beliefs regarding abstaining from health care were sincere, from those who would submit a sworn statement merely to avoid the penalty while remaining uninsured. In actuality, even with such religious beliefs, individuals might find it difficult to refuse care in some instances such as major trauma.
If you check the list of cosponsors, you will see that this act does have very broad bipartisan support. It seems like a reasonable amendment, though it still doesn’t protect the rest of us from the costs of care that the person might receive when the medical imperative is greater than the religious conviction.
Is there a better way of doing this? Of course. Include everyone in a single national health program. 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).
Should a person be required to pay taxes into a universal health care system? I can answer that by stating, as a pacifist, I vehemently object to paying taxes to fight wars. Yet I cannot be allowed the option of withholding my allocated tax assessment assigned to our nation’s military ventures. Nor can anyone be allowed to opt out of paying taxes for any public service that, through our democratic process, we decide to provide for the public good. That includes health care.