Faith-based groups hope to avoid insurance mandate, regulations
They date back long before the Affordable Care Act, but the debate over health insurance coverage has brought health care sharing ministries back into focus. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
It's one of the fundamental questions behind the debate over health insurance coverage and the Affordable Care Act.
"How are you going to pay your medical bills? If everyone was paying their medical bills, then nobody would be arguing about this,” Joe Guarino with Health Care Sharing Ministries says. “The fact of the matter is that there are several ways to pay for your medical bills."
One of the ways used to pay for medical bills is through health care sharing ministries - groups of people agreeing through faith-based organizations to share in each other's medical bills. They avoid insurance by paying the bills together.
"You know you're going to be sharing the same amount of money every month. You're just going to be sending it to a different person every month," Guarino says.
So, ministry advocates are asking state lawmakers to make things clear - that they are not health insurance companies and should not be held to insurance company standards.
"Insurance companies are required to keep funds in reserve,” says Guarino. “All of our funds are out there with the people. None of the money is in the ministries."
David Barrett is one person who is part of a ministry in Boise. He says, when his son went in for an emergency appendectomy recently, the ministry came through for him.
"We were able to submit it to the organization. They shared it with the other members, and in less than 60 days, we had it paid off," he says.
Although older than the Affordable Care Act, people using ministries to pay their insurance bills are not held to the “individual mandate”.
"Rather than a premium to a company, we can submit a direct check to a family that has the need," Barrett says.
"It's individuals, out of their own choice, becoming united together in order to share in one another's needs. And, I think it's really part of the American spirit and principles."
The bill has already passed the Senate side, getting wide bipartisan support and passing 34-1. Now, it will work its way through the house before heading to the Governor's desk for a signature if passed by both chambers.