OLYMPIA – A company that claimed to be offering health coverage based on religious beliefs has agreed to stop selling those policies and pay a $150,000 fine to the state, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Monday.
More than 3,000 Trinity HealthShare policies were sold in Washington in the last year and a half, Kreidler said. People who still have those policies will have to find new coverage in 2020.
Trinity was offering a type of policy that can be provided by a health care sharing ministry but did not meet federal and state laws covering that type of organization, Kreidler said. The law requires such a ministry to be formed before Dec. 31, 1999; Trinity was formed in June 2018.
The insurance commissioner’s office reported receiving dozens of complaints from policy holders who were denied coverage of their claims, and in May ordered Trinity and the company that marketed and administered those plans, Aliera, to stop selling new policies. Trinity had asked for a hearing but later opted instead to settle and stop selling the policies in Washington. A hearing requested by Aliera is pending.
People who bought Trinity plans thought they were buying health insurance but later found out pre-existing and chronic medical conditions weren’t covered, Kreidler said in a statement announcing the settlement. “That resulted in many people facing thousands of dollars of debt for medical expenses they believed would be covered.”
Although new Trinity policies haven’t been issued since the cease and desist order was issued in May, some customers may have policies that extend into 2020. Trinity will have to honor those policies for their life during the coming year while its policy holders look for a replacement, said Kara Klotz, of the commissioners office.
Health sharing ministries are not insurance, but can be legally offered by a nonprofit organization whose members share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses that are consistent with those beliefs.
In issuing the cease and desist order in May, Kreidler said an investigation discovered that while Trinity’s bylaws require members to adhere to a Protestant expression of faith, its website was marketing plans to people of all faith and training materials said the organization simply requires a belief in a higher power and a healthy lifestyle.
While Washington follows federal laws on health sharing ministries, some state’s have their own laws governing those policies and Trinity policies continue to be sold in those states, Klotz said.
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