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The New Health Care Law and Religious Exemptions

Your questions answered

Q. Under health care reform, will a Muslim be required to buy health insurance, if not already covered? There are a lot of rumors and misinformation flying around the Internet about this.

A. The health care reform law requires that adults buy health insurance starting in 2014. The law also provides subsidies in the form of tax credits to defray the cost for those with moderate incomes and opens Medicaid to more low-income individuals and families. People who don’t comply will have to pay a penalty.

However, the law provides an exception to the rule for members of religious groups opposed to accepting insurance benefits that pay for medical care. It gives the Treasury Department the job of setting up an application process for handling exemption requests.

Not much else is certain at this stage. It will be a while before the agency spells out these steps in regulations, since the insurance mandate doesn’t take effect for three more years, a Treasury spokeswoman said.

We can clear up one thing: No matter what you may have heard or read on the Internet, the spokeswoman confirmed that no religious groups have received or been promised exemptions.

Susan Jaffe of Washington, D.C., covers health and aging issues and writes the Bulletin’s weekly column, Health Care Reform Explained: Your Questions Answered.

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