On Monday, the Senate and House committees approved legislation creating the Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act. The bills exempt these ministries, which are not health insurance, from state insurance laws.
The Senate version of the bill is SB 375, which was handled by Banking and Insurance. A Health Care Sharing Ministry is essentially a facilitator among members of the ministry who agree to help each other with medical expenses through contributions. The ministry is limited to members who share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
Under this legislation, participants in a sharing ministry may contribute amounts with no promise to pay by the ministry or among the participants. It’s up to the members to pay their own bills. Public higher education institutions that require health insurance must recognize a student’s membership in a sharing ministry in lieu of insurance.
Senate committee counsel informed senators that 31 states already have health care sharing ministries in code and recognize that they are not health insurance. The insurance commissioner of West Virginia has also recognized that these ministries are not insurance companies and this bill simply codifies that recognition.