Freethought Caucus members laudably request religious health care probe


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is commending Congressional Freethought Caucus members for asking regulatory authorities to investigate a dubious, religious form of health care.

“Congressional Freethought Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., plus Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-Washington, D.C., are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate health care sharing ministries “and take immediate action to protect consumers.”

Such entities are a form of health coverage in which members — who typically share a religious belief — make monthly payments to cover expenses of other members. According to the Commonwealth Fund, health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) “do not have to comply with the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act,” which means that “although HCSMs are not insurance and do not guarantee payment of claims, their features closely mimic traditional insurance products, possibly confusing consumers.”

Health care sharing ministries have recently been under scrutiny due to damaging reports in the New York Times and an exposé on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” As one observer cogently puts it, “Christian health sharing is a scam.”

In the carefully composed congressional letter, the Freethought Caucus members make it clear that health care sharing ministries “are jeopardizing the health and well-being of a reported 1.5 million Americans through deceptive marketing practices and their systemic failure to provide necessary products and services for the consumers to whom they offer ‘coverage.’”

The impact of these “health care” organizations has been devastating, according to the letter. The members of Congress have several questions for the Trade Commission, including: “What actions can FTC take to protect consumers from enrolling in health coverage that does not cover medically necessary tests and services?”

FFRF expresses its appreciation of these members of Congress for shining a spotlight on a little-known and questionable model of health care.

“We are grateful that Rep. Huffman and his colleagues are asking for clear answers about health care sharing ministries and how to best regulate them to prevent harm to consumers,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Such outfits are yet another example of how religiously affiliated organizations hide their harmful and profitable practices from the public under the guise of religious exemptions.”

“We applaud Rep. Huffman’s actions today,” adds FFRF Director of Governmental Affairs Mark Dann. “It shows that he is a true leader in Congress. We hope that today’s letter to the Federal Trade Commission is just the beginning of more actions that will rein in these harmful entities.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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