BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley has announced that the state has come to a settlement with Texas-based Healthcare Sharing Ministry regarding concerns that the organization — Jericho Share — violated state law while offering and advertising memberships to ND residents.
According to a statement from the Attorney General’s office, the state opened an investigation into Jericho Share after consumer complaints were reported in August 2022, alleging the organization was misrepresenting its products. Consumers stated the organization made false promises regarding the coverage of its membership plans, including false representations regarding coverage for pre-existing conditions, as well as medical expenses and prescriptions. This led the Attorney General to believe that Jericho Share was falsely representing its membership plans and misleading consumers into believing that they were purchasing health insurance.
Healthcare Sharing Ministries like Jericho Share offer memberships under which groups of people in a common faith make monthly payments, which are then used to cover the cost of members’ medical care. However, they are not and have never been classified as health insurance — and these plans do not come with similar mandates, guarantees, or protections.
Wrigley noted that some Healthcare Sharing Ministries take advantage of consumers searching for affordable healthcare coverage, and can mislead them by using marketing materials to trick customers into purchasing their product instead. The report states that Jericho Share did indeed advertise its products as health and dental plans in places where they knew consumers went to find health insurance, or to consumers who indicated they were searching for such coverage.
“Through its methods and means of marketing,” stated Wrigley in the report, “Jericho Share created a false impression that its products are health insurance and took advantage of this false impression to make sales, and this is unacceptable.”
The settlement between the ND Attorney General and Jericho Share requires the organization to provide verbal and written disclosures to all consumers, and that they must ‘establish a mechanism that ensures accountability and oversight over the marketing and sale of its health programs to North Dakota residents.’
The settlement also requires the organization pay consumer restitution to 75 impacted customers, $15,000 in lieu of civil penalties, investigation costs, and attorney fees. In the release, Wrigley stated that Jericho Share fully cooperated with the investigation, and assures that through the settlement, it will change its business practices to align and comply with ND law in the future.
“Healthcare Sharing Ministries, like Jericho Share, are not subject to the same laws and regulations as insurance companies,” explains Wrigley. “However, they are subject to North Dakota’s consumer protection laws, and this office will hold Healthcare Sharing Ministries responsible when their business practices mislead or deceive North Dakota consumers.”