As we embark on the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic—albeit with vaccine distribution underway—demand for health care and the financial support many need to help pay for treatment has become a hot topic. Fortunately, this month the Maryland Senate will consider a positive piece of legislation that would protect the right for Marylanders to choose a Health Care Sharing Ministry to manage their health care expenses.
Health Care Sharing Ministries have been serving Marylanders for the past 30 years and should remain an option for the thousands of members who currently belong — and those who may decide that faith-based cost-sharing fits their needs.
Health Care Sharing Ministries are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, through which individuals come together to share health care expenses that align with their religious values. They are a completely different model than health insurance: The members themselves agree on what types of medical expenses the community will share, so long as they align with their shared biblical beliefs. These communities support each other financially and spiritually through health trials – made all the more acute during the pandemic and its resulting economic crisis.
This approach is not for everyone, but it should continue to be a choice for the people of Maryland as it is for Americans across the country. More than 7,000 Marylanders have chosen these faith-based alternatives to health insurance.
Maryland Senate Bill 543 is important, timely legislation that harmonizes Maryland law with the Affordable Care Act’s federal protection for Health Care Sharing Ministries. The bill would also clarify that this health care option is not insurance and thereby put an end to the Maryland Insurance Administration’s misinterpretation of the current state law’s protection for these Christian organizations, in a misguided attempt to shut them down in the state.
State Senator Adelaide C. Eckardt has shown true leadership by introducing legislation that protects the right for Marylanders to choose a Health Care Sharing Ministry for their health care needs. By supporting Senate Bill 543, Maryland lawmakers have the opportunity to protect health care choice and religious freedom in the state.
Maryland has a deep history of leading when it comes to protecting religious freedom in our country, fostering a spirit of independence, and allowing Marylanders to forge their own paths. The thousands of Marylanders who belong to Health Care Sharing Ministries freely choose these alternatives to health insurance because their approach to sharing the health care burden aligns with their deeply held biblical values. This bill is critical to making sure that choice is protected.
The Maryland Senate Finance Committee will hear arguments for Senate Bill 543 on February 17th and, if passed, it will be voted on by the Maryland Senate in the next few months. The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, which represents the ACA-defined Health Care Sharing Ministries serving people of faith across the country, urges Maryland’s Senators to stand with Senator Eckardt in support of this bill.
As our nation continues to battle a second year with this virus, it is critical that we expand rather than restrict options for the American people.