On Monday, the Senate and House committees unanimously approved bills creating the Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act. The legislation exempts these non-health insurance ministries from state insurance laws.
In the Senate, SB 375 was handled by the Banking and Insurance committee. A Health Care Sharing Ministry is a group of individuals who agree to help each other with medical expenses through contributions. These ministries are limited to members who share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
While participants in a sharing ministry may contribute amounts without any promise to pay by the ministry or among the participants, it is still up to the members to pay their own bills. Public higher education institutions that require health insurance must recognize a student’s membership in a sharing ministry in lieu of insurance.
Senate committee counsel informed senators that 31 states already have health care sharing ministries in code and recognize that they are not health insurance. The West Virginia insurance commissioner also recognizes that these ministries are not insurance companies, and this bill simply codifies that recognition.
Last year, SB 292 passed out of the Senate as a 27-1 vote but died in the House Judiciary committee after being approved unanimously by the House Judiciary on Monday as HB 4809.