The state House could vote this week to allow faith-based consortiums that pay the health care bills of their members. “Health care ministries” are groups of people who agree to help pay each other’s medical bills. Usually there is a monthly fee, plus an agreement to share any additional costs. Several states already allow the practice.
“It’s entirely volunteer-driven,” says Republican state Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. “It’s not an insurance company in that there’s no risk assumed. There’s not even a guarantee of payment, but it is individuals taking responsibility for their own health care, coming together and sharing in the cost of one another’s health care.”
Even though there’s no guarantee a medical bill is covered, people who join health care ministries are exempt from the requirement in the federal health care law that everyone carry insurance starting in 2014. Lyons says she’s never heard of a health-bill sharing ministry failing to pay a bill.
The measure cleared the House Insurance Committee last week on a bipartisan vote.
One Democrat says she’s concerned about the burden that could be placed on taxpayers and insurance companies if health care ministries become unable to cover their members’ costs.
“I had concerns about how the numbers might grow and undermine the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act,” says Representative Marcia Hovey-Wright. She was the only member of the state House Insurance Committee to vote against the measure last week.