'No guarantee of payment': Healthcare cost-sharing ministries face growing scrutiny

State regulators are increasingly inspecting Christian cost-sharing ministries that aim to help members pay their medical bills but aren't required by law to cover members' claims, according to The New York Times.

A growing number of Americans are seeing the cost-sharing ministries as a reprieve from escalating health insurance costs. However, the ministries — which include more than 1 million Americans — don't guarantee health coverage or adhere to the ACA.

Under the ministries, people of common religious or ethical beliefs agree to pay a monthly fee, often much lower than average premiums on the individual marketplace, to share medical costs with the group. Some groups have nearly 300,000 members. But the fee doesn't mean the ministry has to cover medical care, and the groups can set payment caps on members. Several members of the ministries told The New York Times their medical bills weren't paid, and some were sent to collections.

One of the ministries, Samaritan Ministries in Peoria, Ill., told The New York Times in a statement about its coverage that it advises members that "there is no coverage, no guarantee of payment."

Still, regulators in New Hampshire, Colorado and Texas have scrutinized how some of the ministries are marketing the cost-sharing groups to members. Regulators in Washington state fined one cost-sharing ministry, Trinity HealthShare, for operating as an unauthorized insurer. The state banned it from offering membership to residents.

Trinity has stood by its cost-sharing group, telling The New York Times most of its members are satisfied with their participation in the ministry.

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