Attorney General Bonta warns Californians of sham health plans
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert warning about “sham health insurance plans offered by some health care sharing ministries,” following complaints received by his office.
Consumers are urged to immediately file a complaint with Bonta’s office if they believe they may have been victimized or were targeted by suspicious marketing by a health care sharing ministry.
Thousands of Californians struggling to afford private health insurance have turned to faith-based, health care sharing ministries, making monthly payments into a system for health care costs to be shared among all members.
But experts warn that the arrangement is not a replacement for health insurance. The types of services covered are limited, and generally do not include preventive and primary care and preexisting conditions.
“Our office has received multiple complaints from devastated Californians who have been left in financial jeopardy with mounting medical bills after their healthcare sharing ministry plan failed to provide the reliable coverage they expected,” Bonta said in the alert. “Before signing up for one of these plans, please do your research and consider applying instead for affordable, reliable coverage through Covered California.”
California’s insurance department had issued a March 2020 cease-and-desist order against Aliera Healthcare, Inc., and its subsidiary Trinity HealthShare to stop doing business in the state after misleading consumers. Aliera Healthcare and Trinity HealthShare are currently operating as Sharity Ministries, the alert says.
A January 2020 story in The Bee with the USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative reported that in California, Aliera’s subsidiary was continuing to take new customers despite facing legal troubles in multiple states and being ordered to stop taking new clients.
A class action suit in April 2020 accused The Aliera Companies, Inc., Aliera Healthcare, Inc. and Trinity HealthShare Inc. of leaving one California couple with more than $70,000 in unpaid medical bills after linking a spinal cord surgery to a preexisting condition.
Aliera denied the allegation as well as previous allegations in other states, telling The Bee it would “vigorously defend” its position.
Health care sharing ministries, the alert says, “use misinformation to mislead consumers into enrolling under the guise of offering an affordable alternative to health insurance from the Covered California marketplace.”
“However, unlike Covered California plans, healthcare sharing ministries are not obligated to cover preexisting conditions or guarantee coverage for medical costs or services” the alert reads.
Primary care, long-term care, contraceptives and abortion are among a list of medical needs not covered by the cost-sharing ministries.