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A new holy order of the mutually insured

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are starting to think about how they will determine whether members of “health care sharing ministries” really are exempt from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) minimum coverage ownership requirements.

CMS talks about plans for getting information about health care sharing ministries in a request to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for permission to collect information about the ministires.

The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries says on its website a health care sharing ministry is an organization that “provides a health care cost sharing arrangement among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs.”

The ministries “are not-for-profit religious organizations acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses,” the alliance says.

PPACA is set to require many individuals to have “minimum essential coverage” by Jan. 1, 2014, or else pay penalty taxes, but PPACA provides exemptions from the requirement for nine different groups of people, including members of health care cost sharing ministires.

In the information collection approval request, CMS officials said it has seen public statements from four organizations that identify themselves health care sharing ministries.

CMS wants to require ministries seeking the ability to provide the PPACA minimum essential coverage exemption to members to submit information to the parent of CMS, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CMS officials said in the information collection request.

CMS has not yet described what kind of information it would ask the ministries to provide, but officials said they expect to gather the information through electronic systems. 

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