FRANKFORT, Kentucky — A Christians-only health care plan that had been banned in Kentucky could resume operations in the state next month, unless officials at the Department of Insurance opt to continue a decade-long legal fight.
The Kentucky General Assembly passed a law that takes effect June 25 exempting Medi-Share, a Florida-based cost-sharing ministry, from regulations that apply to traditional insurance companies. That was done in response to Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate's order barring Medi-Share from Kentucky.
"The Department of Insurance has indicated that they'd like to meet with us to discuss us coming back into the state," said Medi-Share attorney Stephen Sullivan. "It's my understanding that the scheduling of that meeting is underway."
After the meeting, Sullivan said he's hopeful both sides will jointly ask Wingate to lift the ban on Medi-Share, which resembles secular insurance in some ways but allows participation only by people who pledge to abstain from disqualifying behaviors like smoking, drinking, using drugs or engaging in sex outside of marriage.
"We'd prefer to go back to the judge with the department, the both of us, with an agreed order," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said Medi-Share had asked permission to resume operations in Kentucky before the new law takes effect, but the Department of Insurance declined, offering instead the upcoming meeting to discuss the ministry's operations.
Department of Insurance spokeswoman Ronda Sloan had no immediate comment on Friday.
Under the new law, people taking part in Medi-Share would have to sign a notice acknowledging they're aware that they have no guarantee their medical bills would be paid. Medi-Share contends its participants have always been made aware that they're not buying insurance but are involved in a charitable endeavor to help cover medical bills of fellow Christians and potentially have their own expenses covered should the need arise.
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said the law he championed would allow about 800 Kentuckians to rejoin the Medi-Share program.
For the past decade, the Department of Insurance has been in the unenviable position of fighting against the Christian cost-sharing ministry in a Bible-belt state. The agency took the case to court because of concerns that some Christians might mistakenly believe they're paying into an insurance plan that guarantees coverage if they're hospitalized.
The legal battle between Medi-Share and Kentucky had revolved around how tightly the state could regulate the Christian health care ministry that has more than 58,000 members in 48 states. Medi-Share President Tony Meggs testified in court last year that the group has helped arrange for Christians across the country to pay some $25 million in medical bills for Kentucky participants over the past 10 years.
Medi-Share participants make average monthly contributions of about $300 a month to their own accounts at American Christian Credit Union. When other Christians need money to pay medical bills, money is transferred directly between member accounts.