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Christian ministry refers clients to competitor

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 03:11 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Christians-only health insurance program that has been ordered to stop operating in Kentucky is referring clients to one of its competitors that offers similar services in the state.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate concluded last month that Florida-based Medi-Share doesn’t comply with Kentucky Department of Insurance regulations and won’t be allowed to operate in the state after Jan. 1. That means some 800 Kentuckians will have to look elsewhere for coverage.

Amy Huffman, a spokeswoman for Medi-Share, said the organization has contacted its Kentucky members to let them know they’ll have to look for other medical coverage. She said one suggestion was that Medi-Share members consider Samaritan Ministries, an Illinois-based cost-sharing ministry that remains in good standing in Kentucky.

Huffman said Medi-Share suggested other options as well, including seeking medical coverage from secular health insurance companies.
Department of Insurance spokeswoman Ronda Sloan said representatives of her agency have checked into Samaritan Ministries and found that they meet all requirements to operate in Kentucky.

“Their business model is very different than how Medi-Share operates,” Sloan said.

Wingate gave Medi-Share, which has clients across the country, two months to cease operations in Kentucky.
Medi-Share closely resembles secular insurance, but only allows participation by churchgoers who pledge to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex outside of marriage.

In a decade-long legal battle, Kentucky officials have been in the unenviable position of pushing to regulate a Christian ministry in a Bible Belt state. The Department of Insurance took the case to court because of concerns that some Christians might mistakenly believe they’re paying into an insurance plan that guarantees coverage if they’re hospitalized. Medi-Share offers no such guarantee.

Medi-Share contends that its participants aren’t buying insurance, but are involved in a charitable endeavor to help cover medical bills of fellow Christians and potentially have their own expenses covered should the need arise.

The head of the organization told Wingate in August that it has helped arrange for Christians across the country to pay some $25 million in medical bills for Kentucky participants over the past 10 years.