As Sharing Health-Care Costs Takes Off, States Warn: It Isn’t Insurance

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More than a million people have joined health-care sharing ministries, where members help pay the medical bills of other members. These group provide a health-care cost-sharing arrangement among members with similar religious beliefs, and their cost is often far lower than full health insurance.

Indeed, consumers pay a set monthly amount that is pooled into a general account or goes directly to members with an eligible medical bill. These members also present their own eligible bills to be shared by others within the health-care sharing ministry.

In addition, more members have complained that their medical bills weren’t paid or were paid late. Some states said they have seen a rise in complaints filed with regulators. More negative comments have also appeared online.

Given the ministries aren’t regulated by state insurance commissioners, consumers have little options for follow up. Besides, many legislatures have passed bills to protect the ministries from state regulation, based on religious organization and the principle of separation of church and state.

Furthermore, sharing ministries indicate that the rise in complaints is minimal compared to the increase in membership. They communicate to members at the outset the cost sharing arrangement is not an insurance and that an appeals process exists for denied claims.

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