A small part of the healthcare system in the United States is christian cost-sharing groups, the main one being Medi-share. The group touts themselves not insurance but still compliant with the ACA and “a charitable endeavor to help cover medical bills of fellow Christians and potentially have their own expenses covered should the need arise” (Washington Examiner) In Medi-Share’s section for groups they said “Designed for churches and Christian employers concerned about the high cost and ethical dilemmas of insurance, Medi-Share Groups offers a proven, Biblical alternative.”
The group has strict rules for members to qualify, such as living a biblical lifestyle which includes not smoking, not drinking to drunkenness, only engaging in sex within a “Biblical Christian Marriage” and other items not listed. If someone is found to have a medical expense that is caused by breaking any of these requirements than those medical expenses will not be covered by the group. The group also does not cover preventative care (like PAP smears) and non-biblical items such as contraceptives. According the Independent Record “Maternity medical expenses for newborns conceived outside of marriage are ineligible for sharing, according to the website, with rape reported to a law enforcement authority the only exception” Even mental health care and the expenses of those who attempted to commit suicide are not eligible for sharing.
Medi-share requires it’s members to settle disputes “the biblical way” through litigation, with members signing an agreement which states that:
The parties agree that these methods of dispute resolution shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising out of this agreement, and they expressly waive their right to file a lawsuit against one another in any civil court for such disputes, except to enforce a legally binding arbitration decision.
I find it confusing that Medi-share exempts one from the fees of the individual mandate since it claims not to be an insurance company, denies people from joining with preexisting conditions, and doesn’t even operate as a Health Savings Account. Medi-Share does not even stop people from needing to obtain health insurance if they need long term care, members that developed problems such as cancer or Type 1 diabetes have had to obtain coverage through insurance because the company did not cover the cost. Rather it is more of a gamble in some situations where members can vote on whether or not to cover you. This has led to several cases where someone has developed a problem and the company or member decided not to cover them.
For a time, Medi-Share was no longer available in Montana after members filed a lawsuit “claiming the ministry refused to pay for heart-valve surgery after an infection, saying it was a pre-existing condition.” (U.S. News) A pastor in the state also sued after Medi-Share refused to pay for treatment of a heart condition. Just a few weeks ago Montana allowed Medi-Share to start operating in the state again.
The problems with companies such as Medi-Share make me wonder why they have been allowed to qualify to fulfill the individual mandate when they do not cover most of the required expenses, such as mental health. They are not insurance companies (or at least do not operate with the over site that insurance companies do), and do not even guarantee a minimum coverage. Medi-Share might be fine as a charity, but as a replacement for health insurance, it just doesn’t measure up.