Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 29, 2009

Health care reform and the Amish: What will it all mean?

With his long gray beard, plain clothes and lack of electricity, David Yoder of rural Middlebury hardly seems like someone who would know much about government issues.

But Yoder, a member of the Old Order Amish church, has a keen interest in and a deeper knowledge of the workings of government than most people who are plugged into TV, radio and the Internet. Right now, Yoder’s interest is in H.R. 3200, the health care reform bill that has created heated debate throughout the country, both for and against.

Yoder and the rest of the Amish community have good reason to be interested and concerned. If H.R. 3200 passes into law in its present form, it would require all Americans to buy health insurance.

The Amish, though, discourage owning any insurance in favor of taking care of themselves and each other.

A clause in the bill likely would allow most Amish families an exemption from the insurance requirement, but the bill could still create sticky issues for the young people who have not formally joined the church.

Of even more concern for many is the affect the bill could have on Amish-owned businesses.

“It’s a huge concern for all Amish,” Yoder said. “It’s definitely not something we could comply with.”

Yoder serves as the Indiana state liaison for the Old Order Amish Steering Committee. The three-member national committee works with government officials to develop policies that are acceptable to all the Amish churches in the United States.

Yoder and 13 other state representatives meet with the steering committee twice a year and relay pertinent information to the Amish congregations.

Although they keep an eye on the pending legislation, Yoder said most of the committee’s work comes after a bill has passed.

“We don’t consider it our job to form law,” he said. “If it’s a law we can’t comply with we talk about it after the fact.”

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