Joe Guarino saved an entire industry with the help of what he called a “divine” intervention.
Guarino, a little-known lobbyist from Virginia, was hired in 2007 by the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, a nonprofit industry association founded on Christian principles to replace health insurance. I was. Healthcare Sharing Ministries receives fees from members, which are used to pay for medical expenses for other members.
At the time, the industry was tainted by a scandal involving the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter, one of the nation’s largest ministries, based outside Canton, Ohio. State officials won $14 million civil judgments against two top leaders for enriching themselves in exchange for paying members’ medical bills.A ProPublica investigation last month found Daniel J. Beers. It was revealed years later that many of the Brotherhood’s top executives, including, were involved in the launch of the scandal-plagued second Ministry, Liberty HealthShare.
The Washington-based alliance hoped Guarino would pass legislation to repair the industry’s reputation and fend off looming moves to regulate the business. It’s an example of how we’ve quietly worked over the years to protect ourselves from protection laws and stay ahead of government scrutiny.
Guarino has decided to launch a state-by-state campaign to pass so-called safe harbor laws that exempt health-sharing ministries from insurance regulation. The carve-out was justified because, like insurance companies, ministries don’t set prices or coverage based on risk calculations or pool people’s money, the alliance argued. In the United States, many of the rules regarding health insurance are set by the states in which companies operate.
Guarino met with lawmakers from Virginia, Arkansas, and Idaho. “For the most part, I hired local lobbyists, trained them, and they passed bills for us,” he explained Guarino.
Although it received little attention, the campaign was a resounding success. By 2008, 15 states had passed safe harbor laws. Then a new threat emerged. In 2009, President Barack Obama proposed sweeping reforms to the healthcare system. At the heart of the law was a provision called “Personal Mandate,” which required all Americans to have health insurance or be fined. This mandate posed a direct threat to ministries that share health care. If members are forced to purchase insurance, they may leave en masse.
Guarino, embarrassingly defeated by health insurance lobbying, was determined to slip in some form of Safe Harbor carveout, whatever the Democratic-controlled Congress handed the president. “In the meantime, I went to see 150 congressional staff,” Guarino said.
The turning point came when Guarino reached out to a Republican state legislator he knew in Iowa and whether he would get in touch with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who wielded power as a member of the Senate Finance Committee. It was when I asked The deputies had known Grassley’s family since childhood and agreed to set up a meeting. “Look, it happened,” said Guarino. “As a Christian, I look at this and say, ‘Oh, this is God’s way of arranging things.'”
Guarino told ProPublica that he and his client called Grassley. Together, they created an amendment to Obamacare that exempted members of the Ministry of Sharing from having to have health insurance for religious reasons. Behind the scenes, Grassley got a carve-out to the Senate version of the bill, Guarino said. (Grassley did not return a request for comment.)
The passage of the Affordable Care Act has been chaotic and accidental for the ministries. The House version, favored by many Democrats, did not include Guarino’s exemption. If the House bill wins negotiations between the two houses, the ministry will disappear.
But with the sudden death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and were unable to pass the House version. it was done.
The waiver — just 200 words in the 900-page bill — survived tense negotiations between chambers of commerce virtually unnoticed. President Obama signed his ACA into law in March 2010.
“That’s our language in the bill,” Guarino told ProPublica.
A friend told him he saved an entire industry. The larger Christian health distribution community hailed it as a miracle.
Meggs estimates that membership has increased tenfold since 2014, when the individual’s mandate went into effect. Four years later, the alliance announced that about 1 million Americans belonged to member ministries. Some people were bribed by ministries because they hated Obama and associated him with the law. Others did it for economic reasons. The ministry offered plans cheaper than the insurance sold on his ACA Marketplace, which is expensive for those without subsidies or Medicaid entitlements. Many self-employed and small business owners fell into this category.
“Suddenly people started going into religion because it saves them $700, $800 a month,” Meggs said.
Both Meggs and Guarino believe that most health care sharing ministries are done right by their members and insurance alternatives work when under ethical control. admit to being vulnerable to “Obviously, that kind of growth will attract bad actors and people looking for opportunities to enrich themselves,” Meggs said.
One of those who took advantage of this opportunity is Beers, the family patriarch who started Liberty HealthShare, just as Obamacare’s individual mandates have driven thousands of people into the Health Care Sharing Ministry. A ProPublica investigation found that Beers is acting as the unsung ruler of an empire he built with funds from Liberty HealthShare. Some of the families became rich, leaving Liberty members with tens of millions of dollars in outstanding medical bills.
Beers’ name does not appear on any official documents related to Liberty, and he denied any involvement in the family business that profited from the ministry. Lawyers representing Beers and his family also disputed his ProPublica findings that they controlled or influenced the ministry of sharing or did something wrong. Liberty is now under new management that does not include Beers or his relatives.
But to those in the pastoral industry, Beers’ involvement has been an open secret for years.
Around 2014, Meggs recounted a surprise encounter with key figures in the Brotherhood, including Liberty’s then-CEO, vice president, and Beers.The group wanted to propose a partnership with the explosively growing Ministry of Liberty and Meggs
At the meeting, Beals was clearly in control, Meggs remembers.
Liberty is too much like the Brotherhood, he said.