Bipartisan bill would widen exemption from health insurance mandate

New legislation would allow people an exemption from the healthcare mandate by filing an affidavit with the IRS. 

Those seeking the exemption would be required to tell the IRS that they don't have insurance because of their religious beliefs. If those seeking the exemption later used healthcare services under the law, they would lose their eligibility for the exemption from buying insurance and would have to pay a penalty. 

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The bill, H.R. 6597, has drawn the support of more than two dozen Democrats, including Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Barney Frank (Mass.). It is also supported by more conservative Republicans, including libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). 

The legislation is aimed at one of the thorniest debates that has been provoked by the Obama healthcare law. How do you deal with the health mandate if it conflicts with religious views?

Republicans in particular have complained throughout the year that the healthcare law does not adequately consider the rights of religious people. Earlier in the year, the GOP blasted the Obama administration for supporting a rule requiring some religious-affiliated organizations to pay for contraception costs in their employee health plans, including the so-called morning after pill.

The Obama administration has made an exception from the mandate for religious organizations, but it does not extend to groups such as Catholic universities or small business owners who personally disagree with abortion.