The House of Representatives and Senate have both passed bills that establish the Act on Freedom to Share Ministries of Health Care. By law, these ministries, which are not health insurance, are exempt from state insurance laws.
The Senate version of the bill is SB 375, which deals with Banking and Insurance. The Ministry of Health Care Sharing is a facilitator among ministry members who agree to help each other with medical expenses through contributions. Service is limited to members who share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
Under the act, participants in a joint ministry can contribute amounts without a promise to pay the ministry or between participants. It is the responsibility of members to pay their own bills. Public institutions of higher education that require health insurance must recognize a student’s membership in a sharing ministry in lieu of insurance.
Senate committee advisors informed senators that 31 states already have ministries that share health care in the code and recognize that they are not health insurance. The West Virginia Insurance Commissioner already recognizes that these ministries are not insurance companies and the bill simply codifies that.
Last year, the bill passed the Senate as SB 292 on a 27-1 vote, but died in the House Judiciary. The House version, HB 4809, was approved by the House Judiciary in a unanimous vote after barely a minute of debate. This second committee approved it, so it goes to the full house for further consideration.