Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 12, 2013

First hurdle for Medi-Share cleared

FRANKFORT — A bill to exempt a Christian medical needs sharing program from some Department of Insurance regulations cleared the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Committee Chair Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, would pave the way for Medi-Share, an insurance-like shared risk program for Christians, to return to Kentucky.

Medi-Share, a cost-sharing program of Christian Care Ministries based in Melbourne, Fla., left Kentucky in January after the Department of Insurance determined the service is not a direct sharing of risk between members.

But that left some members high and dry, according to those who testified before Buford’s committee Tuesday.

David Schwartz, a Trigg County minister whose wife has suffered two bouts of melanoma, said when Medi-Share left he had a difficult time securing insurance despite a letter from DOI saying his wife’s pre-existing condition should not bar her from buying insurance.

Schwartz said just one bill of the nature his wife incurred during previous treatments of her cancer could wipe out his entire annual salary as a minister.

Robert Baldwin, National Policy Director for Christian Care Ministries, said 21 other states have such exemptions in state insurance regulations and the national Affordable Care Act specifically exempts members of such sharing cooperatives from the tax levied on those without insurance.

But the program isn’t technically insurance. Members are assigned a monthly “share” based on their income levels and those amounts are placed into personal accounts, which they control. If another member’s health care costs exceed his ability of pay, then other members share those expenses.

Duane Walker, a Lexington minister, told the committee his wife incurred more than $250,000 of medical bills for treatment of breast cancer.

Walker said he was completely pleased with the way the system worked and had never had a complaint. But now, he said, his monthly cost for a premium with a private insurer will double.

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