The top insurance regulator in Washington state is accusing a high-profile health care cost sharing ministry, and its program manager partner, of trying to avoid state insurance regulation by wrapping ordinary health insurance in a health care sharing ministry wrapper.
Mike Kreidler, the state’s insurance commissioner, says the health care sharing ministry, Trinity HealthShare Inc., and the program manager, Aliera Healthcare Inc., have made ministry memberships look like conventional health insurance.
Aliera and Trinity have not done enough to make consumers aware that the Trinity plan is a health care sharing ministry, or that Trinity plan members are supposed to be believe in the Christian, Trinitarian conception of God, according to an investigation report Washington state officials posted in April.
Kreidler is seeking a $1 million fine from Aliera and a $100,000 fine from Trinity in connection with program membership sales, according to an enforcement action announcement.
The program has collected $3.8 million in member contribution payments from 3,058 Washington state residents since August 2018, officials said.
Officials reported that Kreidler’s office has received about 20 complaints from Aliera-Trinity program members.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules now require major medical insurance plans to cover claims resulting from pre-existing conditions. Those ACA rules do not apply to health care sharing ministry programs.
Some of the Washington state Trinity ministry members who called Washington state regulators discovered their memberships were something other than ordinary major medical coverage when the ministry failed to help them pay for bills resulting from pre-existing conditions, Kreidler said.
“Real health care sharing ministries can offer a valuable service to their members,” Kreidler said in a statement included in the enforcement action announcement. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing players out there trying to use the exemptions for legitimate ministries to skirt insurance regulation and mislead trusting consumers.”
Aliera said in a statement saying that organizations like Aliera provide members with a flexible method for securing high-quality health care at an affordable price.
Aliera has received about 10,000 “share requests,” or requests for help with paying medical bills, from Washington state residents, and the organization has provided about $2 million in payments in response to those requests, Aliera says.
“Notwithstanding the commissioner’s long history of hostility towards health care sharing ministries and his latest hyperbolic claims, we remain committed to serving health care sharing members in Washington and elsewhere, working with regulators to provide the health care sharing solutions these members need,” Aliera says.
“We will vigorously defend the right of these members to exercise their religious convictions in making their health care choices, and we will utilize all available opportunities to address these false claims made by the commissioner’s office,” Aliera says.
Aliera’s Outreach Efforts
Aliera has been working this year to present itself as a mainstream alternative to health insurance.
The organization served as a gold-level sponsor for the Inter-Company Marketing Group’s 2019 annual conference, in Scottsdale, Arizona, in February.