Frankfort, Kentucky — A Christian healthcare cost sharing company that was booted from the state of Kentucky last year after it was determined that it did not comport with Department of Insurance requirements may be making a comeback due to a bill approved Tuesday in the legislature.
The bill, sponsored by Committee Chair Senator Tom Buford, would make an exemption in state law to allow the Florida-based company Medi-Share to return to the state. It cleared the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously after a hearing by a 11-0 vote.
Medi-Share, one of the three cost sharing companies that apply as exemptions under Obamacare, is not technically an insurance company, but rather a pool that may be paid into which can be used to help the critical medical needs of other Christians. Those that wish to become members must pledge to be Christians who are tobacco and alcohol-free, and who do not use drugs or engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.
The company was barred from doing business in Kentucky last year after Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that Medi-Share was not a direct sharing of risk, and therefore did not apply under state insurance requirements. It had been sued by the state Department of Insurance for possibly confusing Christians into thinking that it was an insurance company and that coverage was guaranteed. According to reports, approximately 800 Medi-Share users in the state lost their source of healthcare assistance because of the ruling. Some of those residents testified at Tuesday’s hearing.
“We are more than pleased with the coverage we’ve gotten so far,” said Dewayne Walker, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Lexington.
Walker’s wife had received assistance from the company when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and incurred $250,000 in medical bills.
Another pastor, David Schwartz, explained that he had difficulty obtaining insurance when Medi-Share was forced to discontinue operations last year. His wife suffered with Melanoma, and he said that if he had to pay for what Medi-Share helped to cover in the past, it would take his entire annual salary.
Medi-Share serves nearly 400,000 people in 48 states and is said to have paid over $500 million in shared needs over the past 19 years that it has been in operation.
Buford told reporters that his proposed bill basically removes the company and others like it from being subject to insurance regulations, therefore, allowing it the right to exist and operate in the state.
“The Department of Insurance regulates insurance companies. This is not an insurance company,” he said.
He plans to add an emergency clause to the bill, so that if it is signed into law, it will take effect immediately. The measure is stated to be likely to pass both House and Senate.
If Obamacare remains law by next year, all citizens nationwide will be required to purchase insurance coverage. Many Christians have been opposed to the requirement, not only because they assert that the government should not force citizens to buy anything, but because many insurance companies cover abortions. Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries International and Christian Healthcare Ministries, the two other companies that qualify as exemptions under Obamacare, do not use any funds toward abortions.