FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) - The Kentucky Court of Appeals rebuffed the state's attempt to regulate a Christian-based insurance publication called Medi-Share, designed to help subscribers with medical expenses. The court said the program does not constitute insurance under state law and falls under a religious publication exclusion.
The state sued the American Evangelistic Association and the Christian Care Ministry, the two groups that published Medi-Share, claiming they engaged in unauthorized insurance sales.
Medi-Share matches monthly subscribers with medical needs to donors who are willing to help pay their expenses.
But to join Medi-Share, applicants must fill out paperwork affirming their commitment to Christianity and its tenets.
"Each applicant must live by biblical principles, regularly attend church, and must abstain from tobacco, illegal drugs, and the abuse of legal drugs, including alcohol," the ruling states. "In addition, each applicant must submit his/her pastor's contact information so that the application's profession of faith may be verified."
Though Medi-Share does not guarantee claim coverage, it "has many similarities to insurance," Judge Rosenblum wrote.
Subscribers must meet deductibles and pay a monthly fee, similar to a premium. Medi-Share also hires adjusters, spends millions of dollars on marketing and submits denied claims to a review board.
The state claimed this amounted to the unauthorized sale of insurance. After a bench trial, the circuit court concluded that state regulators have no authority over Medi-Share.
The appeals court agreed, saying the defendants "clearly proved" that Medi-Share acts as a mere matching service for donors and Christians with medical expenses. "Furthermore, Medi-Share adequately warns subscribers that the donation process is completely voluntary," Rosenblum wrote, "and that Medi-Share does not guarantee the payment of any claim."
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