If you are familiar with the Amish, they do not contribute to the Social Security Insurance program. Some of the larger communities came together in lawsuit to exempt themselves from it. They first used the argument that they have a religious opinion that bars them from purchasing insurance, seeing it as a form or gambling, among a few other things. They didn't get very far with that so they also had to prove that Amish communities had no need for it; they take very good care of their own, so there is virtually no benefit over not being part of the Social Security Insurance program.

Likewise, the Affordable Care Act requires that all citizens opt to purchase health insurance or be fined. The Amish still religiously oppose partaking of any insurance program, and it appears that there is no need for it in this case as well.

Under the same principles, are the Amish, or more generally, any other community, religious or not, exempt from the mandate laid down in the Affordable Care Act?

This source quotes a fackbook post. Not exactly reliable.

NBC News details that the Amish community will be exempt.

The Washington Post gives details about a different group that does not seem a community and mentions that there are nine specific exemptions.

I would like an answer that actually quotes the bill where it names these exemptions. I would then like a summary of who that includes and if your average Joe can legitimately join one of these groups and then be exempt as well.


1 Answer 1


The IRS Website lists the ways in which a person can be exempt from the individual mandate. From the website:

  1. Religious conscience. You are a member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting any insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers the process for recognizing these sects according to the criteria in the law.
  2. Health care sharing ministry. You are a member of a recognized health care sharing ministry.
  3. Indian tribes. You are (1) a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe or (2) an individual eligible for services through an Indian care provider.
  4. Income below the income tax return filing requirement. Your income is below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return. The requirement to file a federal tax return depends on your filing status, age and types and amounts of income. To find out if you are required to file a federal tax return, use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA).
  5. Short coverage gap. You went without coverage for less than three consecutive months during the year. For more information, see question 22.
  6. Hardship. You have suffered a hardship that makes you unable to obtain coverage, as defined in final regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. See question 21 for more information on claiming hardship exemptions..
  7. Affordability. You can’t afford coverage because the minimum amount you must pay for the premiums is more than eight percent of your household income.
  8. Incarceration. You are in a jail, prison, or similar penal institution or correctional facility after the disposition of charges against you.
  9. Not lawfully present. You are not a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or an alien lawfully present in the U.S.

So, you can become exempt from the individual mandate by impoverishing yourself, getting yourself thrown in prison, renouncing your citizenship, etc., but you were particularly interested in the religious conscience exemption. The Social Security Administration has the power to determine what religious groups are exempt, and you can apply for a religious exemption using this form.

The form says that approved religious sects are described in section 1402(g)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, which I managed to find here. To qualify for a religious exemption, you have to show:

(A) such evidence of such individual’s membership in, and adherence to the tenets or teachings of, the sect or division thereof as the Secretary may require for purposes of determining such individual’s compliance with the preceding sentence, and

(B) his waiver of all benefits and other payments under titles II and XVIII of the Social Security Act on the basis of his wages and self-employment income as well as all such benefits and other payments to him on the basis of the wages and self-employment income of any other person, and only if the Commissioner of Social Security finds that—

(C) such sect or division thereof has the established tenets or teachings referred to in the preceding sentence,

(D) it is the practice, and has been for a period of time which he deems to be substantial, for members of such sect or division thereof to make provision for their dependent members which in his judgment is reasonable in view of their general level of living, and

(E) such sect or division thereof has been in existence at all times since December 31, 1950.

The criteria for religious exemption from the individual mandate and Social Security seem to be the same (as all sources I can find point to the same criteria for religious exemption), though policy may come to differ as people apply for religious exemptions. However, at the moment, it looks like you have to be Amish to qualify for a religious exemption, as they are the only religious group whom I could find that qualify for an exemption from the individual mandate and Social Security.

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    The form says that approved religious sects are described in section 1402(g)(1)... - This does not apply if you have ever paid into or received payment from SSI/SSD/SSA. It basically covers people who where born into a religoius sect like the Amish, and a few other recognized religions that exist outside of the mainstream of society in the US. So I can not declare the Cult of Chad and exempt my self from government intervention, and I can not go join the Amish and turn my life from my heathen ways... well i could but the government will still want its cut. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 21:40
  • @Chad - Interesting. I'd have assumed there would be some way to voluntarily forfeit what you've paid in in order to join such a sect.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 21:51
  • @Chad that is correct, especially because the organization had to exist before 1951.
    – Publius
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 22:48
  • What's the significance of that date?
    – dan04
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 23:45
  • @dan04 A lawsuit involving the Amish and the US government and the mandate that all workers purchase the Social Security Insurance via an income tax.
    – user2578
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 23:49

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