Health Care Sharing Ministries Leave Consumers with Unpaid Medical Claims

By JoAnn Volk, Justin Giovannelli, and Christina L. Goe

This year, several states have advanced legislation aimed at “health care sharing ministries” (HCSMs), an arrangement in which members follow a common set of religious or ethical beliefs and make monthly payments to help pay the qualifying medical expenses of other members. HCSMs often claim to offer health coverage comparable to insurance, but lack the consumer protections and benefit standards that apply to comprehensive health plans and are under no obligation to pay members’ claims. Because of how HCSMs are marketed, consumers may have difficulty identifying the significant limitations of these arrangements and risk getting stuck with unpaid bills. Until recently, states did not have access to data on HCSMs’ enrollment, operations, and finances, but a couple of states have begun to fill these gaps; last year, Colorado became the first state to require comprehensive data from all HCSMs enrolling Colorado residents.

Colorado recently published its first reports on HCSMs selling memberships in Colorado. In a post for the Commonwealth Fund’s To the Point blog, CHIR’s JoAnn Volk and Justin Giovannelli, along with attorney and health policy consultant Christina L. Goe, take a look at data from Colorado’s first HCSM report. The authors find that HCSMs operating in Colorado had greater than expected nationwide enrollment, and these arrangements continue to leave members with unpaid claims. You can read more about insights from the state report in the full blog post here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.