There will be a religious exemption to the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (2010), better known as "Obamacare," according to a fact sheet released Wednesday by the Internal Revenue Service.
The religious exemption rule for the individual mandate was included in a set of new rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the implementation of the new health care law.
Only those who are members of a religious sect that is already recognized by the Social Security Administration as exempt from Social Security requirements will be eligible for an exemption from the individual mandate. These sects mostly include the Amish and some other Mennonite sects.
There has been an internet rumor that Muslims would be exempt as well, but Muslims are not exempt from participating in Social Security so they would not be eligible for an individual mandate exemption.
Those who want the religious exemption will be required to go to a "Health Insurance Marketplace," which will be set up by HHS or a state government, and apply for the exemption. Those who are under 18 will have to reapply for the exemption after they turn 18.
Exemptions will also be provided for members of federally recognized Indian tribes, members of a recognized health care sharing ministry, those whose income is so low they were not required to file an income tax return, those who would have to pay more than eight percent of household income for the cheapest premium, those who are in jail, and those who have a certified hardship that makes them unable to obtain coverage.
The individual mandate, referred to as the "shared responsibility provision" by the administration, is one of the most controversial parts of the ACA. The constitutionality of the provision was challenged in a set of cases that went the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. In a narrow 5-4 opinion, the court ruled that the mandate was constitutional because the penalty for not complying with the mandate is a tax, thus Congress has the authority to require citizens to purchase health insurance under its taxing authority.