Health sharing ministries have been a lifeline to countless Texans over the past decade, especially as Obamacare regulations have strangled traditional insurance. But now, one Republican state representative wants to subject the valuable ministries to significant government oversight.
House Bill 573, by State Rep. Tom Oliverson (R–Harris County), would require health sharing ministries—an alternative form of insurance where members of a common religious belief share healthcare costs—to register annually with the state of Texas, thus giving the state authority to micromanage the day-to-day operations of these vital ministries.
On the surface, this action appears to be a classic act of legislative protectionism. By raising the costs for health sharing ministries to operate, traditional insurance becomes more competitive; the fact that Oliverson is a medical doctor adds plausibility to this hypothesis.
A closer look at the bill, however, reveals graver concerns.
A section of HB 573 empowers the State of Texas to determine whether health sharing ministry members “share a common set of ethical or religious views.” This sort of vague language is subject to abuse, not to mention the fact that the state regulating “ethical or religious views” in regard to healthcare seems likely to violate both the establishment and free exercise clauses.
Finally, the bill prohibits health sharing ministries from using “insurance terms,” an oddly vague term with which lobbyists, trial lawyers, and liberal Austin judges could have a field day.
Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi told Texas Scorecard his concerns with the proposed law:
Healthcare sharing ministries are an innovative, affordable, free-market alternative to a government-controlled insurance system that offers high prices, few choices, and no options to escape. HB 573 seeks to drastically increase government control of a healthcare option that has flourished precisely because it has been free from government control. The bill will undoubtedly decrease access to health care, increase costs, eliminate choices, and raises concerns regarding religious liberty, free association, and economic liberty.
Concerned Texans can contact State Rep. Oliverson at (512) 463-0661.