ORLANDO, Fla. — Thousands of families all over the country are counting on a central Florida religious group to pay their medical bills.
Action 9 found out that some members made donations for years and then claimed the medical share program refused to pay when they needed help the most.
“You feel victimized, feel like a fool, because you paid all this money, and they just kept it,” said Anthony Benedict, who felt betrayed by a health care sharing ministry he trusted to cover his family’s medical bills.
Benedict paid a monthly fee for 10 years to Christian Care Ministry and its Medi-Share program.
Last year, his son Anthony Benedict Jr. ended up in intensive care with a brain injury after a violent car accident.
“In a coma for three days, three broken ribs, fractured face,” Benedict Jr. said.
It’s still very difficult for him to talk about the accident, but Benedict Sr. is very vocal and angry about what followed when he submitted the medical bills of more than $150,000 to Medi-Share.
“When you needed the coverage, was it there?” Action 9′s Todd Ulrich asked.
“We paid everyone. Now it’s your turn to deliver and they didn’t,” Benedict Sr. replied.
According to the complaint that he sent to Florida’s attorney general, Medi-Share kept rejecting claims to pay his medical bills.
Every time he called, Benedict Sr. said someone from the group offered to pray for him.
“I like to pray. I like to pray that you pay my bills. That’s my prayer,” Benedict Sr. recounted what he replied to the person on the phone.
Medi-Share promotions say members make monthly donations and that money is shared to cover medical expenses.
Medi-Share is operated by Christian Care Ministry and is based in an office building in Melbourne, Florida.
Action 9 reviewed its contracts and websites, and the organization makes it clear it is not traditionally regulated health insurance. Yet some consumers weren’t so sure.
“Sounded exactly like insurance. They just used different words,” Georgi Dye said.
Ulrich reached out to Dye in Texas after finding her complaint to Florida’s attorney general. She claimed Medi-Share refused to cover her son’s $32,000 medical bill.
Dye says he almost lost his arm in an all-terrain vehicle accident, but the group denied paying because her son was an underage illegal passenger.
“They denied the claim based on the fact that the accident wasn’t within their Christian guidelines,” Dye said.
Christian Care Ministry, Medi-Share, has 84 complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Action spoke with BBB president Holly Salmons.
“We contacted the business in April 2022 regarding a pattern of complaints,” Salmons said.
Customers told the bureau their claims were denied, or managers didn’t respond. Later, Christian Care acknowledged the bureau’s concerns and said it was addressing those issues.
The BBB found many consumers didn’t read the sharing agreement restrictions.
“If you’re not willing to take the time to read it cover to cover, this is not for you,” Salmons said.
Action 9 contacted Christian Care Ministry. The organization said it can’t discuss its members’ health issues, but both families had other coverage that could pay before Medi-Share does. Christian Care Ministry also said its program is based on biblical stewardship with member-voted guidelines that fully disclose what’s covered, and it has 400,000 members across the country.
After he contacted the BBB, Benedict Sr. says that after 14 months, Christian Care paid most of his medical bills. However, he’s still switching to traditional insurance.
“When you really need it, it’s there. Get real insurance,” Benedict Sr. said.
Since it’s not regulated and there are no guarantees, the program costs far less than medical insurance. It can work for some families but there are coverage limits and the possibility of claim denials.
Medi-Share is a Christian community that facilitates the sharing of medical costs of its members based on Biblical stewardship and responsibility. Medi-Share is not health insurance, and member-voted Medi-Share Guidelines govern what is and is not eligible for sharing.
Due to member confidentially and protected health information, we can’t speak to the exact details of the cases you mentioned. Medi-Share has reached out to the individual members to clarify the steps that have been taken to resolve any outstanding issues.
Medi-Share is not insurance, and when members join, they agree to the member-voted Medi-Share Guidelines. These guidelines state that if a member’s expenses are covered by insurance of any kind, such as health or auto insurance, or if a third party is responsible to pay such expenses, Medi-Share serves as a secondary payer.
The Medi-Share team also works diligently to help members navigate state, federal and private patient assistance programs for which they may be eligible. As a non-profit, these services help us best steward the members’ dollars to ensure that if there are alternative funding sources or other forms of payments, they are pursued.
In both of the matters referenced, other potential payers were involved, and because Medi-Share is secondary to any other payer, due diligence was required to determine and confirm whether these other payers were responsible before eligible bills were shared.
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