SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert warning Californians about sham health insurance plans offered by some healthcare sharing ministries (HSMs). These HSMs use misinformation to mislead consumers into enrolling under the guise of offering an affordable alternative to health insurance from the Covered California marketplace. However, unlike Covered California plans, healthcare sharing ministries are not obligated to cover preexisting conditions or guarantee coverage for medical costs or services. As a result, consumers have filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Office alleging that their healthcare sharing ministry plans have refused to cover treatments and pay their medical bills.
“Our office has received multiple complaints from devastated Californians who have been left in financial jeopardy with mounting medical bills after their healthcare sharing ministry plan failed to provide the reliable coverage they expected,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Before signing up for one of these plans, please do your research and consider applying instead for affordable, reliable coverage through Covered California.”
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), HSMs allowed people to pool their money with others who shared their religious beliefs in order to assist each other during times of medical crisis. After the ACA was passed, the Covered California health insurance marketplace was established, giving uninsured Californians access to quality, affordable, and ACA-compliant health insurance. Many companies also began to capitalize on the exemption of HSMs from many of the coverage mandates in the ACA by marketing them as a less-expensive alternative to ACA-compliant health insurance. However, unlike plans through the Covered California marketplace, HSMs do not guarantee payment for covered services and fail to cover essential health benefits, like birth control, prescriptions, preexisting conditions, and mental health care.
Many HSMs may be operating in California illegally because they do not meet the requirements of the healthcare ministry exception. Last year, the California Department of Insurance issued a cease and desist order to Aliera Healthcare, Inc. and Trinity Healthshare, Inc. (currently doing business as Sharity Ministries) for misleading California consumers into purchasing their products.
There are several important factors to consider before choosing a healthcare sharing ministry plan as opposed to a traditional health insurance plan:
A health insurance plan through Covered California not only provides the protections of the ACA, but monthly premiums are now lower than ever thanks to new and expanded financial help through the American Rescue Plan. Many Californians will be able to find a high-quality plan for $1 a month, or richer benefits for less than $100 per month. Consumers can enroll now and do not need to wait for open enrollment in the fall. Visit www.coveredca.com to see how much you may be able to save on your premiums and find the plan that works best for you and your family.
If you believe you have been the victim or target of suspicious marketing by a healthcare sharing ministry, please immediately file a complaint at www.oag.ca.gov/report.