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Judge Declines to Dismiss Religious Discrimination Suit From Contested Health Care Sharing Ministry

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NHPR File
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A Merrimack Superior Court judge is declining to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two Georgia-based health care entities alleging religious discrimination by state regulators. 

Aliera Healthcare and a non-profit created by its owners called Trinity HealthShare partner to offer and market a health care sharing ministry, which is an alternative to health insurance where members pledge to uphold religious values and pay monthly premiums with the expectation that the money will be shared when a medical bill arises. 

Last November, the New Hampshire Insurance Department issued a cease and desist order against Aleira and Trinity after receiving dozens of complaints from consumers claiming the ministry was declining to share money after receiving medical bills.

Aliera appealed the decision, and filed a separate civil suit alleging the Insurance Department was violating religious protections enshrined in the New Hampshire Constitution.

In a nine-page written opinion issued Friday, Judge John Kissinger Jr. declined the state’s motion to dismiss the matter, ordering a further hearing on the matter be scheduled.

Aleria and Trinity served about 1,400 members in New Hampshire at the time of the regulatory action. The entities have also come under scrutiny in other states

Former New Hampshire Insurance Department Commissioner Roger Sevigny serves on the Aliera Companies Board of Directors.

The Department accuses the entities of violating state requirements, including that they weren’t formed before December 31, 1999 as required by law, that they failed to limit membership to individuals who share ethical or religious beliefs, and that they offered group plans.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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