Health plan-like "bill sharing ministry" under fire

A religious organization that describes itself as a "medical bill sharing ministry"--but functions something like a health insurance company--is facing scrutiny from state regulators in Kentucky. The Melbourne, FL-based Christian Care Ministry collects monthly checks from its 19,000 participants, who pay in based on family size and the amount of their medical care they're willing to fund out of pocket. The Ministry then divides the money and cuts checks to health care providers.

This year, Christian Care handled $57 million and has paid out about $250 million since it was founded in 1993. The group spends about 17 percent of member payments on administration, and has in the past also purchased a stop-loss policy to protect against catastrophic loss. Kentucky actually enacted legislation specifically permitting such plans to operate there, but regulators say the stop-loss policy makes Christian Care look more like an unlicensed insurance plan. Now they say the plan doesn't qualify for the state's religious ministry exemption.

For more about the ministry:
- read this article in the New York Times