Lawmakers should protect health care choice in Connecticut
The Connecticut legislature is poised to vote on a proposed bill that would strip more than 5,000 Connecticut residents of their ability to belong to a Health Care Sharing Ministry to manage their health care expenses. These faith-centered communities have been providing their members in the state with a satisfactory and affordable non-insurance approach for decades so it’s concerning that lawmakers in Hartford are taking steps to effectively ban this health care option.
The Connecticut General Assembly’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee recently voted to approve Senate Bill 1041, which would impose illogical and ultimately, lethal regulations on Health Care Sharing Ministries. At a time of tremendous economic and health uncertainty, it is alarming to see elected leaders add to human suffering by taking steps to deprive thousands of people like me of our preferred health care solution.
Health Care Sharing Ministries are NOT health insurance and do not pretend to be. They are a completely different model for managing health care costs whereby communities come together to share medical expenses that are approved by the members themselves and which align with biblical values. Members voluntarily join knowing that they are not enrolling in an insurance plan and take comfort in knowing that their health care choice aligns with their values.
My wife and I have belonged to one of these ministries — Samaritan Ministries — for the past 10 years. We have welcomed seven children and, over the years, have incurred the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that often accompany raising a big family. The Samaritan Ministries community has not only shared all of our bills but has supported us with heartfelt prayer and hundreds of personal notes of encouragement from fellow members. We couldn’t be happier with our choice to belong to this community and recommend it as an alternative to traditional health insurance whenever we get a chance.
While advocates of this bill misguidedly claim that S.B. 1041 protects consumers from organizations and for-profit groups masquerading as Health Care Sharing Ministries, the fact is, it harms the members of actual Health Care Sharing Ministries that operate in good faith. Connecticut has already successfully shut down the bad actors, using existing law. This proposed bill is a solution in search of a problem and ultimately causes more harm than good.
It’s true that several bad actors have entered the marketplace in recent years, posing as legitimate Health Care Sharing Ministries and misleading, confusing, and even defrauding consumers. These for-profit companies should be investigated and subject to the appropriate legal penalty. But, S.B. 1041 is poorly crafted to adequately address that concern and would instead shut down every non-profit sharing ministry that is faithfully serving the citizens of Connecticut.
When our family joined Samaritan Ministries, it was crystal clear to us that we were choosing a non-insurance option. In fact, we declined my employer-sponsored insurance plan because we prefer a health care option that aligns with our Christian beliefs. We are devastated that our elected leaders are taking steps to deny us the ability to be a member of a non-profit, faith-based organization to manage our health care costs. Health care is personal and a Health Care Sharing Ministry is the right fit for our family.
True Health Care Sharing Ministries, which comply with the definition in the federal government’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are transparent and open with their members and the public about what they do and how they operate. Denying these communities the freedom to organize because of a few malefactors misusing their good name is unfair and goes against our core American values of freedom and choice.
As drafted, the legislation would shut down Health Care Sharing Ministries in Connecticut. The effect would be to dictate how religious Connecticut residents exercise their beliefs when it comes to health care. My own family would have to make the hard decision to either “self-insure” or to join my employer-sponsored health plan at a much higher cost.
S.B. 1041 will advance to the full House and Senate floor for a vote in the next few weeks. All Senators and Representatives should vote “no” on S.B. 1041 and protect the ability of Connecticut residents to choose Health Care Sharing Ministries. These ministries should continue to be an option for those that want to be a part of one of these faith-based communities.
Art and Cristina Calef of Lebanon are Samaritan Ministries members.
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