A Kentucky judge has officially shuttered a Christians-only health insurance plan. As of Thursday, members of Medi-Share, a cost-sharing health care company based in Florida, will lose their coverage, as Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate found that the company doesn't comply with Department of Insurance regulations. As a result, Medi-Share will not be allowed to function in the state of Kentucky.
At the center of a 10-year battle is the notion that some Christians buying into the plan may mistakenly believe that they are purchasing insurance that will bring them hospitalization coverage. However, this is not something that is offered by the company, leading Kentucky officials to challenge its operations.
Contrary to traditionally health care plans, Medi-Share views itself as a charitable group that helps cover medical bills for Christians. In essence, there is a Christians-helping-Christians methodology that drives its practices. On the group's web site, the company makes it clear that it is not providing traditional insurance.
A screen shot from the Medi-Share web site
"Health insurance comes with a contractual guarantee to pay your medical bills," The Medi-Share web site reads. "For over 19 years our members have been faithfully sharing medical bills on a non-guaranteed basis, trusting the Lord to provide in their time of need through the voluntary gifts of other like-minded Christians."
The decision will impact 800 Kentuckians who, starting today, will now have no coverage. As stated, Medi-Share plan is unique in that it is a Christians-only medical cooperative. While not entirely the same, it resembles secular insurance, but only permits churchgoers to partake -- individuals who promise to abstain from tobacco, alcohol, drugs and pre-marital sex.
"We just don't think the Department of Insurance or Judge Wingate thought through the reality that you have 800 people now that, overnight, have nothing," Medi-Share President Tony Meggs has said in the wake of the judge's decision. "The state, with Medi-Share, should come together to provide some type of transition for these people."
According to Meggs, members weren't notified until Tuesday that the plan is poised to end this week. Lawyers for the Christian health company are pushing Wingate to take another look at the method through which the plan was ended so that members can at least have applicable time to find another option.
While the judge's ruling was certainly swift, the Department of Insurance reportedly did notify Medi-Share members in Kentucky earlier this month -- before Wingate's ruling came to fruition. The government, at that time, apparently provided members with a list of alternatives that meet insurance code.