Aliera Healthcare has sued the New Hampshire Insurance Department, claiming it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to enforce a cease-and-desist order and alleges religious discrimination, according to a complaint filed in Merrimack Superior Court.
Aliera claims the Insurance Department has violated the New Hampshire Constitution “through state-sponsored discrimination that promotes some religious sects to the exclusion and disadvantage of others and even seeks to define what is and what is not a recognized religion under New Hampshire law.”
The company is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief from the alleged violation of state law.
In response, the state objected to the injunctive relief and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.
Aliera, which is not licensed as an insurance company in New Hampshire, has been administering and marketing health coverage on behalf of Trinity HealthShare, which operates as a health care sharing ministry, according to the state. Both companies are based in Atlanta.
In a health care sharing ministry, members pay premiums and voluntarily agree to share their medical expenses in accordance with their Christian beliefs, according to Trinity’s website.
In October, the department ordered the companies to stop issuing new plans or renewing coverage in the state after receiving dozens of complaints. About 1,400 New Hampshire residents have signed up for the plans.
The department issued another order in March for the companies to demonstrate why the department should not fully halt its operations, revoke business licenses and levy fines, according to a statement.
Aliera sought hearings with the Insurance Department on the orders before filing the complaint in court.
In the complaint, Aliera says the Insurance Department doesn’t have jurisdiction over the health care sharing ministry because it doesn’t sell insurance.
“Though Aliera is not a health care sharing ministry (HCSM) and simply offers contracted services on behalf of the HCSMs, we do feel it is our responsibility to advocate for the citizens of New Hampshire,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “NH legislators have historically fought to protect health care sharing ministries, as they offer a more flexible method for securing high-quality health care in a manner consistent with the religious commitments of HCSM members.
“Under the current health crisis, that goal is more important than ever, where residents face increasing costs for traditional health insurance. We took this to the courts because our legal system has a longstanding history of protecting religious practice in New Hampshire and stands as a protection from administrative overreach that limits individuals’ rights to health care and religious freedom.”
The state filed a motion to dismiss through the Attorney General, stating health care sharing ministries needed to be formed before Dec. 31, 1999 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The state claims “Trinity was created in Delaware on June 27, 2018 by Aliera and its principals,” according to the motion.
“Like a health insurance company, Trinity collects fixed monthly payments from its members, payments that vary according to the level of coverage, and conducts medical underwriting to screen for preexisting conditions,” the motion reads. “There is also a schedule of covered and excluded services, a schedule of copayments and deductibles, a claim adjudication process, use of provider networks and annual or lifetime limits.”
Trinity’s sharing ministry is derived from “a long-standing — much prior to 1999 — Anabaptist tradition and ministries,” according to a letter seeking the initial hearings from attorney Alexander J. Gonzales, representing Aliera.