Watertown Daily Times
By Mark Heller
WASHINGTON — Federal health care reform will require most Northern New Yorkers — but not all, it turns out — to carry health insurance or risk a fine.
Hundreds of Amish families in the region are likely to be free from that requirement.
The Amish, as well as some other religious sects, are covered by a “religious conscience” exemption, which allows people with religious objections to insurance to opt out of the mandate. It is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, making its appearance in the final version routine unless there are last-minute objections.
Although the Amish consist of several branches, some more conservative than others, they generally rely upon a community ethic that disdains government assistance. Families rely upon one another, and communities pitch in to help neighbors pay health care expenses.
The Amish population has been growing in the north country, as well as in New York generally. The state ranks sixth nationally in Amish population and posted the biggest net increase in Amish households — 307 — from 2002 to 2007, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers reportedly included the provision at the urging of Amish constituents, although the legislation does not specify that community and the provision could apply to other groups as well, including Old Order Mennonites and perhaps Christian Scientists.
A professor and lawyer at Yeshiva University in New York complained last summer that exempting groups for religious reasons could run afoul of the Constitution. Marci A. Hamilton, who teaches at the University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote at Findlaw.com in August, “If the government can tolerate a religious exemption, then it must do so evenhandedly among religious believers with the same beliefs. This is sheer favoritism for a certain class of religions, or even for one religion.”
In her column, Ms. Hamilton speculated that lobbyists for the Christian Science Church were responsible for the provision, given their public stance that health care reform bills around the country should include religious exemptions. In an e-mail message Friday, she said she was unaware of the Amish interest in the bill and that their objections to the mandate surprised her because the Amish do buy vehicle insurance, for instance.
Ms. Hamilton said the exemption could harm the health of children whose families avoid medical care for religious reasons, although the Amish objections relate more to insurance than to medical care itself.
Congressional aides said the exemption is based on a carve-out the Amish have had from Social Security and Medicare taxes since the 1960s. Whether Amish businesses, however, would fall under the bill’s mandates is still an open question.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who was a key negotiator on the Senate bill, supports the religious exemption, said a spokesman, Maxwell Young, who called the provision a “no brainer.”
June 12, 2009
by Associated Press Writers, Larry Margasak and Sharon Theimer
Influential senators working to overhaul the nation’s health care system have investments and family ties with some of the biggest names in the industry. The wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, the lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate’s bill, sits on the boards of four health care companies.
Members of both parties have industry connections, including Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, in addition to Dodd, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch, financial reports showed Friday. .
Jackie Clegg Dodd, wife of the Connecticut Democrat, is on the boards of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardiome Pharma Corp., Brookdale Senior Living and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals.
Dodd is filling in for ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will soon start work on a health care bill.
Other publicly available documents show Mrs. Dodd last year was one of the most highly compensated non-employee members of the Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc. board, on which she has served since 2004. She earned $32,000 in fees and $109,587 in stock option awards last year, according to the company’s SEC filings.
Mrs. Dodd earned $79,063 in fees from Cardiome in its last fiscal year, while Brookdale Senior Living gave her $122,231 in stock awards in 2008, their SEC filings show. She earned no income from her post as a director for Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals but holds up to $15,000 in stock in Pear Tree, which describes itself as a development-stage pharmaceutical company focused on the needs of aging women.
The annual financial disclosure reports for members of Congress are less precise. They only require that assets and liabilities be listed in ranges of values.
Dodd sought a 90-day extension to file his report covering last year, giving him until mid-August to submit his report, but released his report Friday to The Associated Press.
Bryan DeAngelis, Dodd’s spokesman, said, “Jackie Clegg Dodd’s career is her own; absolutely independent of Senator Dodd, as it was when they married 10 years ago. The senator has worked to reform our health care system for decades, and nothing about his wife’s career is relevant at all to his leadership of that effort.”
DeAngelis said that Mrs. Dodd has hired a personal ethics lawyer to avoid any conflicts of interest and is not a lobbyist.
Other reports showed:
_ Rockefeller, D-W.Va., reported $15,001 to $50,000 in capital gains for his wife from the sale of a stake in Athenahealth Inc., a business services company that helps medical providers with billing and clinical operations.
Rockefeller is honorary chairman of the Alliance for Health Reform, a Washington nonprofit whose board includes representatives from the UnitedHealth Group health insurance company; AFL-CIO labor union; the AARP, which sells health insurance; St. John Health, a nonprofit health system that includes seven hospitals and 125 medical facilities in southeast Michigan; CIGNA Corp., an employer-sponsored benefits company; and the United Hospital Fund of New York.
_ Coburn, R-Okla., is a practicing physician. He reported slight business income, $268, from the Muskogee Allergy Clinic last year; $3,000 to $45,000 in stock in Affymetrix Inc., a biotechnology company and pioneer in genetic analysis; $1,000 to $15,000 in stock in Pfizer Inc., a pharmaceutical company; and a $1,000 to $15,000 interest in Thomas A. Coburn, MD, Inc.
Under Senate ethics rules, Coburn can’t accept money from his patients.
_ Gregg, R-N.H., disclosed $250,001 to $500,000 in drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. stock and $1,000 to $15,000 each in stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Pfizer, the Johnson & Johnson health care products company and Agilent Technologies, which is involved in the biomedical industry.
_ Kyl, R-Ariz., the Senate minority whip, reported $15,001 to $50,000 in stock in Amgen Inc., which develops medical therapeutics. Kyl’s retirement account held stakes in several health care businesses, including the Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical companies; medical provider Tenet Healthcare Corp.; CVS Caremark prescription and health services company; Genentech, a biotherapeutics manufacturer; and insurer MetLife Inc.
_ Harkin, D-Iowa, has a joint ownership stake in health-related stocks. Harkin and his wife, Ruth Raduenz, own shares of drug makers Amgen and Genentech, Inc., each stake valued at $1,001 to $15,000; Their largest health care holding, Johnson & Johnson, was valued at $50,001 to $100,000.
_ Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Finance and Health committees, reported owning between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in drug maker Pfizer Inc. He spoke to two pharmaceutical industry conferences last year. Sponsors of the conferences donated $3,500 to charities instead of speaking fees, as required by Senate rules.
Like millions of Americans, several senators took a financial hit in 2008. A sampling:
_Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lost some $100,000 in equity in his home in Springfield and $35,000 in his Chicago condominium. Durbin, who released his tax returns, reported losing $32,259 in various investments last year, including more than $10,400 in Berkshire Hathaway and $5,535 in Fidelity stock.
_Kennedy in 2007 had four trusts each valued between $5,000,001-$25 million. In 2008, only one trust was still in that category while the rest had slipped in value to $1,000,001-$5 million.
_Hatch’s investments suffered from the banking crisis. In 2007, he reported assets of between $2,002 and $30,000 in Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. stock. His 2008 financial disclosure lists the value at less than $1,000.
One of Dodd’s investments showed a vast improvement.
A new appraisal more than doubled the value of his vacation cottage in Ireland, which has been subject of a Senate ethics complaint filed by a conservative group questioning if the undervalued property was really a gift.
The property is valued at 470,000 euros, or about $660,000, on Dodd’s disclosure report.
The previous year’s report valued the seaside home, located in County Galway, at between $100,001 and $250,000.
DeAngelis, the spokesman, said Dodd and his wife decided to have the property appraised because they felt it was time to update the information.