(Photo: Wesley A. Sirles)
A judge in Kentucky will soon hear arguments on whether or not a Florida-based Christian-only health care group should be held in contempt of court for operating in the state.
Medi-Share, a charity that provides insurance help for churchgoers, will be going to court once more as the Kentucky Department of Insurance has accused the company of disobeying a permanent injunction against it doing business in the state.
The case will be brought before Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, who recently set a hearing for Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Tony Meggs, president and CEO of Christian Care Ministry, told The Christian Post that the legal issues between Medi-Share and the Kentucky Department of Insurance go back to 2002.
"The 2002 action was eventually heard in the fall of 2006, which is the time at which the appellate record that the Kentucky Supreme Court considered in making its ruling was created," said Meggs.
"Medi-Share prevailed at the 2006 trial, and the Kentucky Department of Insurance appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Medi-Share prevailed at the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Department of Insurance appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court."
In 2010, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against Medi-Share, reasoning that the company is by classification an insurance company and therefore needed to conform to state regulations on insurance companies. Such regulations would include mandating that Medi-Share service non-Christian customers and provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
Medi-Share is a cost-sharing ministry for Christians that operates in 49 states and services approximately 40,000 people, including 700 in the state of Kentucky. It describes itself as a "modern-day version of what the church started back in the book of Acts" that not only involves sharing medical costs but also prayers and encouragement.
Ronda Sloan, manager of Communications and Public Outreach for the Department of Insurance, told The Christian Post that Medi-Share is an insurance company and therefore must conform to the rules.
"The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Medi-Share is insurance and is not exempt from regulation under Kentucky's religious publication statute," said Sloan.
"Therefore, the entity should be subject to the same regulation as other health insurance companies."
According to the Kentucky Insurance Code, (KRS 304.1-030), "insurance" is defined as "contract whereby one undertakes to pay or indemnify another as to loss from certain specified contingencies or perils called 'risks,' or to pay or grant a specified amount or determinable benefit or annuity in connection with ascertainable risk contingencies, or to act as surety. "
The code provides an exemption status for certain groups, such as "fraternal benefit societies," assorted nonprofits, and "religious publications."
Regarding the issue of classification as an insurance company, Meggs told CP that she believed Medi-Share qualified for the exemption status.
"We believe that we meet the requirements of such statute and are entitled to operate under its provisions," said Cape.
"All we are seeking at this point is a neutral third party, that is, an administrative hearing officer, to consider our position."