Federal Issue: Health Care Sharing Ministries Reform​

Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSM) Reform

HCSMs are a form of non-compliant insurance-like or junk coverage in which members who typically share religious beliefs make monthly payments to cover healthcare expenses for themselves and other enrolled HCSM members. HCSMs are not considered insurance, so there is no guarantee that members’ claims will be paid even for expenses that meet membership guidelines for “covered services.” It goes without saying that abortion and contraception for most HCSMs are non-starters. Through a combination of a lax regulatory structures, selective payment of benefits, religious exemptions, and the high cost of health care, HCSMs have become extremely profitable. 

Christian Healthcare Ministries reported $340 million in revenue in its 2017 tax filing. From 2015–17, Liberty HealthShare recorded a 900 percent increase in revenue, from $6.5 million to $65 million. The Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries, a national trade/advocacy organization that represents only a handful of HCSMs currently operating in the United States, estimates their member HCSMs have enrolled 1.5 million people nationwide, up from 130,000 in 1999.

Stories continue to emerge about how consumers are being duped into joining HCSMs, and numerous states such as California, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Washington, New Hampshire, Colorado, Connecticut and Texas are taking action against HCSMs. Colorado has passed a law to curb some of HCSMs’ most egregious practices.

Legislation to curb these abuses supported by FFRF Action Fund includes:

Health Care Transparency Act

H.R. 8324, introduced Rep. Jared Huffman, Calif.

Protects consumers from the deceptive practices of Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs).  consumers from the deceptive practices of Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs). Mandates that HCSMs can no longer hide their finances and activities and must annually disclose to the treasury secretary, IRS and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the following information:

Empowers consumers by mandating that HCSMs disclose, in large and legible writing in multiple languages, and read aloud if enrolling over the phone, the following information:

Ensures that health insurance brokers selling ministry memberships must accurately describe the scope of benefits provided by the HCSM, and whether they are eligible for better, more comprehensive forms of health coverage, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid or Medicare. Plus, the Bill has an enforcement mechanism and penalty if the HCSM does not comply.