A Christians-only health-care ministry Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ordered to cease operating in Kentucky may soon be back in operation thanks to a bill expected to be approved by the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly. If so, a few selected consumers will have another option in seeking affordable health-care coverage.
Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Buford, R-Nicholasville, is the General Assembly’s response to Wingate’s order that Florida-based Medi-Share close in Kentucky because it did not comply with state insurance regulations. Wingate’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Department of Insurance. However, SB 3 exempts Medi-Share and other similar religious organizations from state insurance regulations.
If adopted, legislators will be agreeing with Medi-Share’s contention it is not an insurance company and never claimed to be one. Instead, it is a large group of individuals who voluntarily agree to share medical expenses. The bill requires Medi-Share and other similar entities to fully inform participants that “sharing of medical expenses is not insurance.”
Instead of being an insurance company, Medi-Share calls itself a “ministry” that allows subscribers who pledge to live Christian lives with no smoking, drinking, using drugs or engaging in sex outside of marriage to voluntarily contribute to a fund to pay the medical expenses of participants.
Medi-Share has never guaranteed subscribers it will pay all their medical expenses. However, it would help pay medical costs as long as funds remain available.
Wingate’s ruling appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for Medi-Share in Kentucky. After all, Medi-Share had lost every legal challenge to its right to operant in Kentucky.
SB 3 does not change the regulations for medical insurance providers in Kentucky. Instead, it exempts Medi-Share and any other similar cost-sharing programs operating in the state from the insurance regulations because they are not insurance companies.
Medi-Share is not for everyone. Indeed, even some devout Christians would not qualify because of existing health problems. However, as long as subscribers are fully aware of how Medi-Share operates, we think it should be able to operate in Kentucky. Indeed, those who don’t drink, smoke or abuse drugs and are monogamous are likely to be healthier than most other Kentuckians. In a sense, Medi-Share is offering a reward for healthy living. For some, that’s a good enough incentive to live a healthy lifestyle.