WASHINGTON DC - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill introduced by Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock that amends Obamacare and strengthens First Amendment religious liberty protections for individuals with sincerely held beliefs that conflict with government mandates to purchase health insurance coverage. H.R. 1814, the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act passed with a simple voice vote by the House.
“Congress today reinforced basic constitutional protections for sincere believers of all faiths. Among the many problems with Obamacare are the insufficient safeguards for people of faith. H.R. 1814 provides a strong provision that guarantees First Amendment religious liberties for all Americans while protecting U.S. taxpayers from potential fraud. Congress has long sought to uphold both these commitments, and has again today affirmed our founding principles,” Schock said in response to the bill’s passage.
“Congress is not likely to reach agreement today – or any day – on the underlying law. Obamacare is as controversial now as it was when it was enacted, and perhaps more so. But we do agree that Congress shall make NO law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. On that, the American people can be assured there is strong bipartisan agreement.”
The EACH Act resolves a legislative deficiency in the Affordable Care Act that requires some Americans to pay a penalty for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs. Under the 2010 health care law, many persons of faith were denied religious conscience exemptions that would otherwise safeguard their First Amendment freedoms against intrusive government.
Schock’s involvement in the Obamacare fix began after constituents reached out to him on the issue. Upon hearing their stories of how the health care law would force them either to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or face penalties, he began reaching across the partisan aisle to propose needed legislation. In the end, 216 Members of Congress sponsored today’s bill, including 78 House Democrats.
Additionally, the EACH Act guards against potential Obamacare fraud by requiring persons who assert a religious exemption from the individual mandate to attest to their conscience claim through a sworn affidavit on their annual tax return.
The bill now advances to the Senate, where action must be taken before the March 31 deadline to purchase health care insurance if millions of Americans are to have relief from the law’s penalties for exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed religious liberties.
To read the bill, click here.
To read the full text of Congressman Schock’s floor speech in support of H.R. 1814, click here.