Health care ‘ministry’ banned by Washington insurance commissioner

An Atlanta-based organization that offers a faith-based approach to health insurance has been banned from operating in Washington because it does not meet the legal definition of a “health share ministry.”

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler banned Trinity HealthShare Inc. from doing business in the state, saying the organization improperly marketed itself as a health care sharing ministry.

Trinity describes itself as a “nonprofit health care sharing ministry” on its website.

Kreidler’s office notes federal and state law requires health care sharing ministries to have formed before Dec. 31, 1999.

Trinity formed in June 2018 as the successor to a small ministry that met the definition.

Washington policyholders can keep their coverage for up to a calendar year to give time to pursue other coverage.

Kreidler previously ordered Trinity and its marketing partner, The Aliera Companies, to stop operating in Washington after customers reported their claims were denied. 

A class-action lawsuit alleging Trinity and Aliera violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act is pending in U.S. District Court for Western Washington.

Aliera maintains it hasn’t broken state law and has requested a hearing.

As of June, Aliera and Trinity had sold 3,058 policies to Washington consumers and collected $3.8 million in premiums. The insurance commissioner estimates Trinity owed nearly $42,300 in premium taxes.

Policy holders Roslyn Jackson, Gerald Jackson and Dean Mellom filed the class-action suit in August.

The suit alleges Aliera and Trinity unfairly and deceptively marketed, sold and administered unauthorized insurance plans to state residents without the required approval from the insurance commissioner.

The amended complaint calls Trinity a “profit-making enterprise” for Aliera’s owners under which Aliera and its owners take nearly 84 percent of member contributions, leaving 16 percent to pay claims for health benefits.

The suit seeks to recover all premiums paid by Washington customers along with expenses, triple damages up to $25,000 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Act, attorney fees and other damages.

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