CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner is issuing a warning about a company that may be misleading consumers to believe they have health insurance, when in reality, their health coverage is limited and unregulated.
R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Dr. Marie Ganim said the state is investigating Aliera Healthcare, Inc., a company which markets itself as a health care sharing ministry.
Health care sharing ministries are typically comprised of people who have similar religious beliefs who form a group and help fund each other’s health care, according to Ganim.
“There are some companies that are marketing products that actually are fraudulent,” she said.
The state recently received a complaint about Aliera from a Rhode Island couple on the hook for a $1,000 medical bill they believed would be covered.
Ganim said the state has not determined whether Aliera violated any Rhode Island laws. Several states, including Georgia, have already taken action against the company.
Approximately 70 to 80 consumers in Rhode Island purchased products from Aliera, according to Ganim.
“They see the marketing, they hear the language, they think it’s health insurance,” Ganim said. “It is not health insurance.”
That’s why the state says it’s also cautioning consumers to carefully research health plans that are not insurance.
“It probably has very serious limitations, may have preexisting condition exclusions, and will also have very serious limitations on what it will pay for,” Ganim said. “And you may end up with very big bills that you’re very surprised with.”
The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries does not represent Aliera, and in a statement to Call 12 for Action the organization’s president, Dr. David Weldon said, “We share the concerns of regulators and elected officials in Rhode Island and around the country regarding recent developments pertaining to Aliera and its affiliates.”
The Alliance also broadly defended health cost-sharing ministries.
“Approximately 1.4 million Americans are using one instead of insurance and are happy with the quality of the service they receive,” Weldon said.
In a statement, Aliera said the company will request a meeting with Commissioner Ganim to “address false claims and clarify confusion about the administrative, marketing, and other support services we provide to Trinity HealthShare and other HCSMs we represent.”
“We remain committed to working with regulators to ensure Rhode Island residents continue to have a more flexible and affordable option for securing high-quality health care, something that is more important than ever for the state’s residents who face skyrocketing costs for traditional health insurance,” Aliera added.
An Aliera brochure provided to Call 12 for Action contains the disclaimer, “This is NOT insurance.”
Consumers who have questions about health insurance can call the Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) at (401) 270-0101.