Washington Insurance Commissioner Targets Illegal “Health Sharing Ministries”

On May 13, 2019, Washington State’s Insurance Commissioner announced regulatory action against two “Health Sharing Ministries” over selling health insurance illegally and engaging in deceptive business practices.

The Insurance Commissioner alleged two Health Sharing Ministries, Aliera Healthcare and Trinity Healthshare, abused rules allowing religious nonprofits to act outside normal health insurance regulation.  Washington State insurance law provides certain exemptions for nonprofit organizations whose members share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses among members.

Multiple complaints were reported that people were deceived into believing they were buying genuine health insurance, but instead were joining a Health Sharing Ministry.  These consumers learned after the fact that what they thought was health insurance actually lacked many of the consumer protections inherent in bona fide health insurance.  For instance, some consumers complained of being surprised by exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Additionally, the Insurance Commissioner’s office found Aliera Healthcare and Trinity Healthshare provided misleading advertising, misrepresented their governing “statement of faith,” operated without proper licensing, and violated federal laws governing Health Sharing Ministries.

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