Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let's rock the health care debate

Kentucky has a history of being notoriously bad on health insurance issues. We now have an interesting opportunity to push back in a big way, but need some national help to do it.

In 1994, after the failure of HillaryCare, Kentucky destroyed its individual health insurance market by requiring insurers to accept all applications regardless of health status. Dozens of health insurance companies immediately left the state, leaving only one. The legislature subsequently restored some sanity to the marketplace, but some big problems remain.

Enter ObamaCare.

A small corner of the ObamaCare debate has escaped the national spotlight. That corner is occupied by religious-based health sharing organizations, which are exempt from the so-called Affordable Care Act.

Three such organizations, Christian Care Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries and Christian Healthcare Ministries are at the center of a very quiet debate running right to the heart of what is wrong with the idea of government regulating health care.

In 2002, Kentucky filed a lawsuit against Christian Care Medi-Share, alleging that the company fit the state’s definition of an insurance company and needed to be regulated as such. This effectively destroys the company’s ability to operate in the state because their ability to avoid the state’s crazy quilt of mandates and their much lower premiums are what could make them a better choice for some consumers.

To their credit, Medi-Share refused to just go away quietly. They won exemptions in court while the state kept appealing. In 2010, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against Medi-Share and the state moved then to remove them from Kentucky.

To their credit, again, Medi-Share refused to leave. And this is where it gets really interesting.

Perhaps realizing they don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the Affordable Care Act — actually worse than ObamaCare! — just as the fire gets really hot, Kentucky has stopped fighting to remove Medi-Share. They still tell callers to the Department of Insurance consumer information line that Medi-Share is operating illegally and shouldn’t be trusted to serve citizens’ health care financing needs, but there has been no official action against the company for almost a year.

And the sad truth is that, given the way the state law is written, Kentucky is on solid ground in persecuting the Christians who seek refuge from federal overreach through Medi-Share.

And that’s where the other Christian health sharing companies enter the story. A Kentucky Department of Insurance spokeswoman told me almost three weeks ago that further action against Medi-Share was imminent and that while Samaritan and Christian Healthcare had previously been investigated and found to be properly operating outside the bounds of state insurance regulation, they would be investigated again.

There has been no apparent official action since then. And the truth is Samaritan and Christian Healthcare also operate in conflict with Kentucky law.

Arbitrary application of the law is prohibited by Kentucky’s Constitution. State regulators have created a chilling effect on consumers and Christian health sharing organizations with their actions. The proper action is to enforce the law universally or to repeal it and allow this opportunity for health freedom to flourish.

Kentucky needs to repeal this worse-than-ObamaCare provision in state law by redefining “insurance” in KRS Chapter 304 to exclude health sharing organizations and we need to do it this summer in special session to prevent further harm to Kentucky Christians.

And if, in doing so, we expand those freedoms beyond just Christians, then so much the better. But to do any of this, we need to draw national attention to this fight. Please spread the word as widely as you can.