Senate advances bill to allow Christian heath coverage cooperative back into Kentucky

Without dissent, the state Senate approved a bill Wednesday, Feb. 13, that would grant Christian health cost-sharing organization Medi-Share an exemption from the state’s insurance laws and enable it to resume operation in Kentucky.

The Florida-based health care ministry was forced out of Kentucky last year by Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, who ordered Medi-Share to stop operating in Kentucky. He acted at the request of the state Department of Insurance, which said the organization didn’t comply with insurance regulations.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee and sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would allow about 800 Kentuckians to rejoin Medi-Share. It would remove Medi-Share and two similar ministries operating in Kentucky out from oversight of the insurance department.

“The Department of Insurance regulates insurance companies. This is not an insurance company,” Buford told the committee. Medi-Share does not include any contractual agreement to pay medical bills, but users are matched with each other to help pay for medical expenses through community giving, according to its website.

Medi-Share’s plans resembles secular insurance in some ways but only allows participation by people who pledge to live Christian lives with no smoking, drinking, using drugs or engaging in sex outside of marriage, reports Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The bill would require Medi-Share to tell members it’s not an insurance company and does not guarantee that all medical bills would be paid, notes Roger Alford of The Associated Press.

The Rev. Dewayne Walker, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Lexington, told the committee Medi-Share paid about $250,000 in medical bills for his wife, who had cancer. Medi-Share President Tony Meggs testified in court last year that the group has helped arrange to pay for some $25 million in medical bills for Kentuckians over the past 10 years, Alford reports.

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