Friday, December 13, 2019

Sharing is Caring - Or maybe not

Over the years, we've written pretty extensively about Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs), both their advantages and their flaws.

On the one hand, they are ACA-compliant, which means that they technically check the Mandate/Tax/Penalty-avoidance box. And, they are typically far less expensive than comparable ObamaPlans.

On the other hand, they are underwritten, and they are not insurance, which means that there are few (if any) consumer protections available for folks who enroll (notice that we can't call them "insureds"). They often have religious restrictions, as well, which could be problematic for some.

Back in August, we noted that Washington State insurance regulators were taking a hard line against Aliera's HCSM arrangement:

"The top insurance regulator in Washington state is accusing a high-profile health care cost sharing ministry, and its program manager partner, of trying to avoid state insurance regulation by wrapping ordinary health insurance in a health care sharing ministry wrapper."

Fast forward to now, and co-blogger Bob tips us to this item from the Peach State:

"... health shares marketed by Georgia-based Aliera, the company through which Greer bought his plan, exemplify those risks, with the company under investigation or ordered to stop selling plans by regulators in at least four states."

I can sympathize with Alierra's clients: as anyone who's recently shopped at the site can attest, plans are increasingly expensive, both in premium and potential out-of-pocket, even with subsidies (tax credits). So it's easy to understand the allure of alternatives like health sharing, while overlooking the very real pitfalls.

I must say, I'm not sure how insurance regulators think they have the authority to ban an explicitly non-insurance product, but maybe that's just me.

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