Unlike health insurance companies, which pool insurance premiums under company control, health sharing ministries promise members a means to help them share the costs of their qualified medical bills. Many health sharing ministries restrict membership based on religious belief and require pledges to avoid risky behavior. Some ministries’ plans have attracted attention from Catholics for their sensitivities to concerns about excluding coverage for procedures like contraception, sterilization, abortion, and assisted suicide.
About 1.5 million Americans are members of these kinds of ministries, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing. Some $2 billion in medical expenses were shared through this type of ministry in 2020. There are over 100 health sharing organizations certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for meeting the federal law’s definition of a health sharing ministry.
The Healthcare Sharing Accreditation Board is accepting applications for health sharing ministries. If accredited, a ministry may publicize this credential for one year before re-applying.
Talento said a list of accredited health sharing ministries will benefit policymakers and other stakeholders. Going forward, she said, the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries will be governed only by ministries which are “committed to undergoing the accreditation process.” The alliance’s members include seven of the nine health sharing organizations with a large, nationwide open membership certified by federal regulators.
The Healthcare Sharing Accreditation Board is an independent, non-profit entity. Its voting board members do not have an affiliation or interest with any health care sharing ministries, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries. Its members include former U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican; James Lansberry, former executive vice president of the Peoria, Illinois-headquartered health care sharing group Samaritan Ministries; and Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.
The accreditation board will evaluate applicants in various areas, including legal structure and governance; organizational management and compensation; conflicts of interest; external communications and marketing; enrollment processes; members’ written acknowledgments; published sharing guidelines; expense ratio; and audited financial statements.