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“Fake” Insurance Companies Mislead Consumers And Avoid Regulation

One man’s ordeal after signing up for a non-traditional insurance company plan serves as a warning to consumers shopping for similar options.

Keith Meehan had signed up for a “health care sharing ministry,” an arrangement in which people with common ethical or religious beliefs share medical expenses. Later, Meehan was shocked to find himself on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars after a back surgery. As the New Hampshire Union Leader reports:

Keith Meehan is on the hook for more than $230,000 in medical bills after his insurer denied his claims from back surgery earlier this year.

After going without medical coverage for two years, the 49-year-old Rochester man signed up for a health care sharing ministry, an arrangement in which people with common ethical or religious beliefs share medical expenses, according to the federal government.

Meehan’s providers, Aliera Healthcare and Trinity HealthShare, denied his claim due to a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act bars health plans from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, but “health care sharing ministries” are exempt from this rule. Denials by companies similar to Meehan’s have caused insurance commissioners to shut some of them down.

Last month, [New Hampshire] Insurance Commissioner John Elias ordered Atlanta-based Aliera Companies and Trinity HealthShare to immediately stop selling or renewing “illegal health insurance” in New Hampshire, where about 1,400 state residents are covered by the plans. The agency took action after receiving dozens of complaints.

Elias warned consumers of the danger of these unconventional companies.

“There are legitimate health care sharing ministries that offer coverage for their members, but Aliera and Trinity are not one of them,” Elias said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are seeing entities in the marketplace that are misleading consumers and finding ways to try to avoid insurance regulation. It is important for consumers to be cautious when they purchase health coverage and to reach out to the department when they have questions or concerns.”

 

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