Monday, January 11, 2010

Religious Tolerance and the Health Care Mandate.

Anabaptists have long eschewed public insurance policies for their own collective address of medical emergencies. Home owner's insurance and other plans designed to prevent catastrophic loss are seen by the more conservative members of the Anabaptist sect as intrusions. While car insurance was never much of a problem - if you own a car the chances are you're "worldly" enough to buy into insurance needs.

In fact, family story has it that my Mennonite grandparents left a more traditional church in Lancaster County when the pastor there criticized my grandmother's short bonnet strings (long ones were oh so much more pious) and my grandfather's insurance policies.

While the Amish and conservative Mennonite communities are now forced to provide their employees with workmen's compensation, they have stayed far away from health insurance, coming together to care for a broken arm or a dire prognosis like they would to build a barn.

The health care bill has many wary critics among these conservative Anabaptist sects, most hoping they will be able to receive exemption from the new mandated fees. David Mekeel writes:

UNLIKE MOST Americans, James B. Weaver has never really given much thought to health insurance.

An Old Order Mennonite living in Maxatawny Township, Weaver, 56, doesn’t subscribe to the idea of buying insurance of any kind.

He opts to rely on his community when it comes to handling the bur den of sickness.

“We sort of like to try to pull our own weight, and we’re very staunch believers that there is no free lunch, Weaver said of the Plain communi ties in Berks and elsewhere. “We take care of our own sick and infi rm.”

The same is true for the few Amish households in Berks County, which are mostly in the far western part of the county.

But the debate about a new na tional health care bill has forced the insurance topic to the forefront for many Amish and Old Order Men nonites.

Both the U.S. House and the Sen ate have passed health care reform bills, and the lawmakers are expect ed to work out the details of a fi nal bill early this year.

Each bill includes requirements that would force nearly every Amer ican to carry health insurance and make businesses provide it for employees.

Those who don’t have insurance would face fi nes.

Weaver suspects most members of Plain communities would balk at the idea of buying health insurance. But he said some younger members may not be as steadfastly against the idea.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of dialogue in our circles about how we are going to deal with this,” Weaver said. “Unfortunately, I think quite a lot of our younger people might not be opposed to some form of it.

“The older generation, though, will probably try to work something out where they get exemptions.”

An unwelcome intrusion

In Plain communities, health insurance requirements are viewed as an unwelcome government intrusion.

“It’s basically a religious reason,” said Don Kraybill, professor of Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County. “They feel the members of the church are responsible by their Christian faith to help each other and take care of people.

“They feel they shouldn’t be paying outside commercial entities to be taking care of them. That’s the responsibility of members inside the community.”

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