Why You Should Avoid Health Sharing Ministries

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As the pandemic continues, President Trump quietly launched another attack on the Affordable Care Act: The Treasury Department has proposed a new regulation to define healthcare sharing ministries as health insurance. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the new rule could boost the appeal of these faith-based plans—which already charge lower monthly premiums—by making the expenses for healthcare sharing ministries tax-deductible.

According to a recent Kaiser Health News report, there may be almost one million people enrolled in over 100 healthcare sharing ministries throughout at least 29 states. These plans have come under scrutiny by state regulationsalong with the media—for leaving customers underinsured.

The attorneys general of 20 states have already opposed the new rule. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, they warned that healthcare sharing ministries don’t provide comprehensive coverage, and aren’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

They say this may leave customers, “without essential health benefits and lacking other critical protections, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions.” The attorneys general warn these plans don’t include the safeguards of traditional insurance, and may leave Americans with costly gaps in coverage. This could be particularly harmful amid the coronavirus pandemic, as millions of folks are currently unemployed and looking for affordable health coverage.

Where to find affordable health insurance

Whether you have recently lost coverage—or you are shopping for a new health plan—it may be tempting to sign-up for a healthcare sharing ministry. The lower monthly premiums and possible tax benefits from the new Treasury proposal may sound appealing, but your family may have more comprehensive options elsewhere.

Start by shopping for plans through Healthcare.gov and see if your family qualifies for cost-sharing reductions. Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicaid, which could offer low-cost or free health insurance. You can learn more about eligibility—and how to apply for coverage—here.

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