God is my underwriter: faith-based health plans grow

There’s a little more evidence about what may have been behind that faulty NPR story about a Texas couple who claimed they couldn’t find an obstetrician to take their private insurance, which they bought as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The clue is in this paragraph:

They signed on to be in the midwife’s care. Nick signed up for a nonprofit, Christian-oriented cost-sharing plan. The Robinsons will pay cash upfront and request reimbursement later.

The story suggested a systemic problem, but it’s not. It’s a political (and religious) one. Surprise!

The Washington Post today reports on the rise of faith-based insurance coverage, the underpinnings of which is opposition to the ACA by the people most predisposed to objecting to it.

Unlike insurance companies bound by the health law, these ministries typically do not pay for contraception, abortion or treatment for most mental illnesses. An injury arising from what is considered non-Christian behavior, such as a drunken driving accident, may not be covered.

“These ministries operate on a very high degree of trust,” said Timothy S. Jost, a Washington and Lee University law professor and consumer advocate. “It’s really important that people really believe in this and are committed to this. If you have a bunch of people sign up who are doing this only to [avoid the health-care law], the whole thing can collapse.”

At least one ministry has taken a more liberal approach to the religious aspect. Liberty HealthShare, which is based in Ohio, accepts non-Christians as long as they adhere to certain values, including the belief that “it is our fundamental right of conscience to direct our own healthcare, in consultation with physicians, family or other valued advisors, free from government dictates, restraints and oversight.”

It is an option that appeals to Anthony Wilson, 56, a southeast Indiana engineer who never warmed to the health law and planned to stick with his old health plan — until Anthem said it would be raising the rate for him and his wife to more than $1,400 a month.

He said that the Liberty plan has shortcomings but noted that it is cheaper than the Anthem policy and aligns with his Catholic faith. And he is happy that he is not participating in the health-care law. “I would prefer to not be a part of that if I can,” he said.

“Being a Christian means walking by faith. And we believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, and that things work best when you go his way,” one policyholder said in a 2010 NPR profile.