Shutdown of Missouri religious health care outfit shows need for stricter regulation

Medical Cost Sharing Missouri

The implosion of a dubious religious health insurance entity in Missouri demonstrates the need for stronger restrictions on such outfits.

After defrauding consumers for years, a Missouri health care sharing ministry has been shut down by the federal government. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been sounding the alarm on such organizations for a long time, calling on state and federal lawmakers to crack down on their deceptive and potentially fraudulent business model. These ministries rely on religious credulity — and a general dislike of the American health insurance system — to convince consumers that such organizations are a “reliable alternative” to insurance. In reality, health care sharing ministries are just religion-based insurance companies without the consumer protection available on real insurance.

A health care sharing ministry called Medical Cost Sharing Inc. in Missouri reportedly faced complaints for years, collecting monthly premiums from members and then failing to pay for members’ medical expenses. Federal authorities have finally focused their attention on its malfeasance. In fact, health care sharing ministries often deny payment for religious reasons and do not guarantee payment for medical claims, allowing them the option of simply hoarding premium payments. More than 1.5 million Americans subscribe to health care sharing ministries, and it is an industry that is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The news in Missouri highlights the danger of unaccountable fake insurance, and dispels the myth that health care sharing ministries operate on a moral high ground. The lesson is as old as time: When someone says to trust them because they are religious, beware!

Many more unaccountable health care sharing ministries are collecting premiums and denying payment every month across the country, just as Medical Cost Sharing was doing. Now is the time for legislators to act! Last summer, Congressional Freethought Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., introduced the Health Share Transparency Act to rein in health care sharing ministries across the country. FFRF has also highlighted state efforts to protect consumers from these outfits, such as a law Colorado passed last year.

As is the case with abusive churches preying on their parishioners’ ill-placed trust, the majority of health care sharing ministry victims are religious. FFRF hopes that its interfaith allies will join its fight to secure much-needed consumer protections against these fraudulent practices.

FFRF has worked with legislators to pass on experiences of those who have been harmed by health care sharing ministries. If you or someone you know has a personal story, please share it with FFRF at [email protected].

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members and several chapters across the country. It protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend