On Monday, the Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act was approved by the Senate and House committees. This bill exempts Health Care Sharing Ministries, which are not health insurance, from state insurance laws.
The Senate’s version of the bill is SB 375, handled by Banking and Insurance. These ministries are essentially facilitators among members who agree to help each other with medical expenses through contributions. The ministry is limited to members who share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
Participants of a sharing ministry may contribute amounts with no promise to pay by the ministry or among the participants. It’s the responsibility of the members to pay their own bills. Public higher education institutions that require health insurance must recognize a student’s membership in a sharing ministry in lieu of insurance.
Senate committee counsel informed senators that 31 states already have health care sharing ministries in code and recognize them as not health insurance. The insurance commissioner of West Virginia already recognizes that these ministries are not insurance companies, and this bill simply codifies that recognition.
Last year, the bill passed out of the Senate as SB 292 in a 27-1 vote but died in the House Judiciary. The House version, HB 4809, was approved by the House Judiciary in a unanimous voice vote after barely a minute of discussion