Kentucky Asks Judge to Reverse Ruling on Christian Health Plan

By | February 1, 2007

The Kentucky Office of Insurance has asked a judge to reconsider his decision to allow a Christian-only health care plan to continue operating in the state.

Other states recognize Medi-Share as insurance and subject it to stricter regulations, attorneys for the Insurance Department argued in a motion filed Friday in Franklin Circuit Court. Judges in Montana, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota have held that Medi-Share is an insurance program subject to those state’s regulations, Insurance Department attorneys said.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled on Jan. 18 that the Medi-Share program isn’t insurance and therefore doesn’t violate the state’s insurance laws.

Rick Masters, a Louisville-based attorney who represents Medi-Share said reconsiderations are rarely granted and probably won’t be here, given the extensive evidence in the case.

“I think this is tantamount to a tacit attempt to appeal the case by asking the judge to reverse himself,” Masters said. “We think he got it right the first time.”

The Medi-Share program serves nearly 20,000 churchgoers nationally by accepting contributions from participants. The program is based on the biblical belief that Christians should take care of one another’s needs. The program has about 300 participants in Kentucky.

The program excludes non-Christians because, organizers say, their lifestyles can result in unnecessary medical care. Participants can’t smoke, use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol. They’re also not allowed to enroll if they have pre-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Medi-Share, based in Melbourne, Fla., publishes a disclaimer that says it doesn’t guarantee the payment of medical bills and that it should never be considered a substitute for an insurance policy.

E. John Reinhold, head of the American Evangelical Association, testified in a trial last year that the cost-sharing ministry is careful not to use terms associated with the insurance industry in its publications so that people won’t be confused. It also publishes a disclaimer to inform recipients that it is not an insurance plan.

The state Insurance Department contended at trial that the program should be barred from Kentucky because people are paying monthly premiums for what they may believe to be insurance, yet they have no guarantee that their medical bills will be paid.

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