The Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act was approved by the Senate and House committees on Monday. The bills exempt these ministries, which are not health insurance, from the state’s insurance laws.
The Senate’s version of the bill is SB 375, which was handled by Banking and Insurance. A Health Care Sharing Ministry is a facilitator among members 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.
Participants of a sharing ministry may contribute amounts with no promise to pay by the ministry or among the participants. It is 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. West Virginia’s insurance commissioner recognizes that these ministries are not insurance companies, and the bill simply codifies this recognition.
Last year, the bill passed out of the Senate as SB 292 in a 27-1 vote but died in the House Judiciary Committee. This time around, HB 4809 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a unanimous voice vote after barely a minute of discussion, sending it to