By Katy Talento
Anyone familiar with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shouldn’t be surprised at their recent segment attacking Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs). The taxpayer-supported PBS network pushes leftwing themes relentlessly.
In this case, they manipulated data and facts to paint a false picture of Health Care Sharing Ministries that fits their ideology.
Let’s set the record straight:
PBS’s segment asserts that Health Care Sharing Ministries don’t share in the full amount of a patient’s medical bill, neglecting to mention that this is also a standard practice with health insurance. Nobody — not insurers, not members of health care sharing ministries, and not self-pay patients — should pay list prices because they are almost always grossly inflated.
One of the best features of HCSMs is that they assist members in negotiating prices. Indeed, the bigger the “discount” from the original charge, the better. HCSMs would be irresponsible if they simply wrote price-gouging, price-hiding hospitals a blank check.
HCSMs negotiate hard on behalf of their members to get bills reduced, and some of them even negotiate contracts with hospitals or purchase access to networks of negotiated contracts to get bigger discounts for their members. The metric of a successful and responsible ministry in this regard would be a bigger not a smaller gap between billed charges and amounts shared after successful negotiations or discounts.
It’s beyond misleading for PBS and its guests to imply that ministries need more oversight because of their efforts to reduce costs for members.
The segment complains that HCSMs don’t share in bills for immoral procedures. That’s a feature, not a bug, and it’s a big reason why many Christians fled the insurance market and chose HCSMs instead. Christians don’t want to spend their money on abortions or gender-bending drugs and surgeries, for example.
Regarding abortion, it’s intentionally misleading to single out HCSMs as if they’re unique for not sharing in bills arising from the procedures. In 2019, eleven states outright banned private insurers from doing so. Twenty states excluded abortion in their state employees’ plans. Additionally, federal workers are only offered plans without abortion coverage, pursuant to a federal statute signed by President Bill Clinton, which Congressional liberals have tried but failed to repeal for the past 30 years.
Critics assert that HCSM members aren’t smart enough to understand what they’re joining. But accredited ministries are specifically evaluated on their transparency with their members and especially, with prospective members so that they can decide whether HCSMs are right for them. Insurance companies are far worse at explaining themselves to their enrollees. PBS conveniently omitted any references to the escalating number of complaints, coverage denials and dissatisfaction that people have about insurance policies.
For example, Healthcare.gov marketplace insurers denied nearly one out of every five claims for in-network services in 2020, according to a KFF Health News analysis. One top insurer deployed a computer program to bulk-deny claims for some common procedures with little or no review. A KFF survey found that more than half (58%) of “people with health insurance say they encountered at least one problem using their coverage in the past year, with even larger shares of people with the greatest health care needs reporting such problems.”
Failing to address the glaring failures of health insurance while smearing HCSMs exposes the bias that’s been raising taxpayer ire with PBS for decades. You wouldn’t air a story that is critical about, say, carpooling without talking about why carpoolers chose it in the first place (because the public transport system wasn’t working for them).
Critics might even go as far as to state that HCSMs might not share in bills arising from a hypothetical big-ticket need. Yet HCSM members routinely share major costs, such as care for heart disease and cancer. In 2021, more than 1.5 million members of HCSMs shared $1.3 billion in medical expenses.
Christians know the insurance industry and many of them are rejecting it whenever possible. That’s a threat to insurance regulators and insurance cheerleaders like PBS’ guests. But moral alternatives to insurance should be allowed to flourish so that families can evaluate their options and choose what works best for them. It’s long past time for the Public Broadcasting Service to respect the choices of the public it serves and leave the snobbery and liberal bias to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, and CBS — the market is saturated enough without taxpayer-subsidized wannabes.
Katy Talento is executive director of the Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries (The Alliance, ahcsm.org).