FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — People taking part in a Christians-only health care plan would have to sign a notice acknowledging they’re aware they may not have their claims paid, under a legislative amendment proposed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, Ky.
Kentucky Senate Bill 3, a bill that is hanging on in the final days of a legislative session, would exempt the Medi-Share ministry from state insurance regulations, allowing it to once again operate in Kentucky.
Stumbo said Tuesday he isn’t sure the measure will get a vote on the House floor even with his proposed amendment.
“I personally don’t have any trouble with it if it moves forward,” Stumbo told reporters. “But these people need to understand that it is not an insurance company. There are no guarantees. And, therefore, they affectively assume the risk. I don’t want them to believe it’s something that it’s not.”
The House Banking and Insurance Committee voted 28-0 last week to pass the measure on behalf of Florida-based Medi-Share, which had been the subject of a decade-long court battle.
Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ordered Medi-Share to stop operating in Kentucky last year at the request of the Kentucky Department of Insurance.
Sen. Tom Buford, the Nicholasville Republican who sponsored the legislation, said it would allow about 800 Kentuckians to rejoin Medi-Share. The plan resembles secular insurance in some ways but only allows participation by people who pledge to live Christian lives with no smoking, drinking, using drugs or engaging in sex outside of marriage.
Medi-Share contends its participants are fully aware that they’re not buying insurance but are involved in a charitable endeavor to help cover medical bills of fellow Christians and potentially have their own expenses covered should the need arise.
The Rev. David Atkisson, pastor of Grace Church in Elizabethtown, said Stumbo’s amendment is perfectly acceptable.
“I think it clarifies the bill, at least for the legislators,” he said. “But for those of us who have been participants in it, we’ve known this all along. There’s nothing innovative about that, necessarily.”
For the past decade, the Department of Insurance has been in the unenviable position of having to fight against the Christian cost-sharing ministry in a Bible-belt state. The agency took the case to court because of concerns that some Christians might mistakenly believe they’re paying into an insurance plan that guarantees coverage if they’re hospitalized. Medi-Share offers no such guarantee.
Stumbo said the amendment he filed would require participants to sign a bill that makes clear that they are aware that Medi-Share and similar ministries aren’t offering insurance plans.
“I personally don’t see anything wrong with people engaging in that activity so long as they understand that this is not an insurance company,” he said.
The legal battle between Medi-Share and Kentucky had revolved around how tightly the state could regulate the Christian health care ministry that serves nearly 40,000 people in 49 states. Medi-Share President Tony Meggs testified in court last year that the group has helped arrange for Christians across the country to pay some $25 million in medical bills for Kentucky participants over the past 10 years.
Medi-Share participants make average monthly contributions of about $300 a month to their own accounts at American Christian Credit Union. When other Christians need money to pay medical bills, money is transferred directly between member accounts.