Several states file lawsuits against Aliera and New York insurance regulators peonage documents.
New York State insurance regulators recently issued a subpoena to Aliera, the Christian ministry run by Trinity Healthshare. More than one million Americans have joined such cost-sharing plans because they can do so at a much lower than traditional policies requiring stricter standards set forth by the Affordable Care Act, such as guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions.
These groups are Christian nonprofits and can offer lower rates to members because their businesses are not officially classified as insurance providers and, thus, they are under no legal obligation to pay medical claims. But state regulators are questioning some of the ministry’s aggressive marketing tactics, saying consumers have been misled or did not grasp the lack of comprehensive coverage in the case of a catastrophic illness when they initially opted into a plan.
Aliera Healthcare, based in Georgia, has been sued by the Texas Attorney General after numerous complaints in an effort to stop it from selling “unregulated insurance products to the public,” while Connecticut, Washington and New Hampshire are trying to stop Trinity and Aliera from doing business in those states. Regulators say they are concerned that the ministry is, in fact, operating as a traditional insurance provider without classifying itself as such.
In New York there have been at least 15 consumer complaints, including accusations that Aliera “misrepresented the coverage being offered.” The Georgia Attorney General’s office has turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) ten consumer complaints. Washington insurance authorities have had a dozen and a half complaints in the past year. New Hampshire has had 21 complaints since late 2017.
“Having a disclaimer somewhere on Page 17 saying this is not insurance and there is no guarantee to pay is not necessarily going to turn people away,” said JoAnn Volk, a researcher at Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
“There are legitimate health care sharing ministries that offer coverage for their members, but Aliera and Trinity are not one of them,” said New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner John Elias.
Aliera submitted a statement saying, “It’s deeply disappointing to see state regulators working to deny their residents access to more affordable alternatives offered by health care sharing ministries. We’re proud of the work we do to help ministries provide a more flexible method for securing affordable high-quality health care, and we will continue to vigorously defend against the false claims about our company, just as we expect the health care sharing ministries we serve to vigorously defend their members’ right to exercise their religious convictions in making health care choices.”
It continues, “Aliera will continue to vigorously defend against false claims made about the administrative, marketing and other support services we provide to health care sharing ministries (HCSMs), and we’re confident the HCSMs we support will defend the right of their members to exercise their religious convictions in making health care choices.”
“The sharing ministries have been very alarmed, very concerned about the press reports and the misconceptions that people can have about the sharing ministries and the legitimate work they actually do,” said Dr. Dave Weldon, president of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries.