On Monday, the Senate and House committees approved bills creating the Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act. The legislation exempts these ministries, which are not health insurance, from state insurance laws.
A Health Care Sharing Ministry is a facilitator among members of the ministry who agree to help each other with medical expenses through contributions. The ministry is limited to members who share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs. Participants may contribute amounts with no promise to pay by the ministry or among the participants, and it’s the responsibility of the members to pay their own bills.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 375, was handled by Banking and Insurance. Public higher education institutions that require health insurance must recognize a student’s membership in a sharing ministry in lieu of insurance. This recognizes that 31 states already have health care sharing ministries in code and understand that they are not health insurance. Additionally, West Virginia’s insurance commissioner already recognizes that these ministries are not insurance companies and the bill simply codifies this understanding. Last year, SB 292 passed out of the Senate as a unanimous vote but died in the House Judiciary before moving on to a full House vote. The House version, HB 4809, was approved by a voice vote after barely a minute of discussion by committee members before going to the full House for further consideration.