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Heretic on the Hill: Don’t Join any Health Insurance Club That Would Have You as a Member

The website said, “Sharity Ministries is built on the centuries-old Christian tradition of caring for one another, including health care needs. Our members hold a common set of religious beliefs, such as ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2) and ‘share with the Lord’s people who are in need’ (Romans 12:13a).” So tens of thousands of people joined Sharity thinking they were getting health insurance, or something very much like it but grounded in their Christian faith.

Sharity declared bankruptcy because it was more like an insurance club than an insurance company. It had no legal obligation to cover any claims and when the money ran low it only made partial payments, because it could. Lawsuits followed. Membership dwindled.

Chrisitan healthcare ministries, like Sharity, appeal largely to evangelicals. The ministries promote reliance on family, church, God, and other Christians rather than commercial insurance — the kind that is regulated and required to pay the benefits it advertises. Healthcare ministries are part of the separationist, exclusionary approach to religion and “religious freedom” that begins to look like a parallel institutional universe. This is not good for society as a whole at a time when we are becoming more and more divided.

Too often, the prospective members of Christian healthcare ministries aren’t given a clear picture of what the risks are in joining. Regulatory agencies get little information about finances and actual coverage provided to members. As co-chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, Congressman Jared Huffman led a Caucus briefing on the problem of healthcare ministries; now he has introduced a bill that would address these problems by requiring more transparency. The bill:

  • Requires disclosures during the enrollment process so people can distinguish between the ministries and regulated health insurance.
  • Provides new data to regulators so they can better assess the risks to public health.
  • Requires insurance brokers to notify customers if they are eligible for better, more comprehensive forms of health coverage than healthcare ministries. 

Use our action alert to tell your representatives to support the Huffman bill so that these risky non-insurance organizations will do less harm to unsuspecting people and their families.

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