Late Tuesday afternoon, Michigan’s state Senate Insurance Committee will approve House Bill 5805, the “Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act.” The bill doesn’t need any Democrats’ votes to become law in Michigan, but it does need a closer look.
The concept is simple: religious health sharing is medical coverage designed to serve people of a similar faith while also avoiding government regulation. Health sharing as a formal practice is decades old and nearly all of the very few problems associated with it have come directly from overzealous government involvement.
And that’s where ObamaCare made it interesting. The “Affordable Care Act” included an exemption for health sharing groups in operation since 1999. While this limits the market to three existing organizations, it has sparked state-level activity to clarify the role of health sharing under ObamaCare.
The Michigan bill properly requires the state Department of Insurance to keep its distance from these federally-exempt health sharers, which is a good thing. What deserves a second look is the part of HB 5805 that narrows the scope of an “eligible entity” by mandating that there exist nowhere in their transactions any “promise to pay” either between the entities and their customers or among the customers themselves. If this language is enshrined into law, this is precisely where the opposition will attack first in order to shut down health sharing in Michigan.
And that attack will be successful.
I’m a big fan of religious health sharing. I actually think its exemption from ObamaCare could be used to great benefit by those who prefer free market solutions to command economy nonsense. But this is no time for messing with fine print to make some lobbyist look smart.
If a health sharing group wants to get cute with its own contract to cover its rear end when something goes wrong, that’s fine. But trying to cram stuff like this into the law will only mess up the opportunity for everyone. Please urge your Michigan state Senators to fix HB 5805 before it is too late.