Washington moves to end healthcare-sharing ministry's operations

Washington's insurance commissioner ordered a Delaware-based healthcare-sharing ministry and its administrator to stop selling health insurance in the state.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler accused Aliera Healthcare and Trinity HealthShare of offering "sham" health insurance coverage and operating illegally in the state.

Trinity markets itself as a healthcare-sharing ministry, under which members share healthcare costs among others with similar religious or ethical beliefs. The ministries are exempt from state insurance regulation.

However, Mr. Kreidler said Trinity and Aliera, which is an unlicensed insurance producer in Washington, are behind more than 20 consumer complaints received by his office. Some members said they thought they had bought health insurance and not joined a sharing ministry, which resulted in denials based on preexisting conditions, according to the commissioner.

"Legitimate healthcare-sharing ministries offer a valuable service to their members," said Mr. Kreidler. "Unfortunately, we're seeing players out there trying to use the exemptions enjoyed by legitimate ministries to skirt insurance regulation and mislead trusting consumers."

Aliera and Trinity have 90 days to demand a hearing.

In an emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review, Aliera said "Aliera has never misled consumer and sales agents about its health plans. For example, our website, marketing materials and other communications clearly state that Trinity's health sharing products are not insurance. More importantly, they have never been represented as insurance. All of our membership materials clearly define plan restrictions, such as preexisting conditions, exclusion periods and more. ... Aliera disagrees that Trinity's inclusive and specific statement of beliefs misleads consumers or violates the applicable regulations governing healthcare-sharing ministries. Trinity clearly communicates those statements of belief so that consumers can make an informed choice that's right for them."

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