Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today announced nearly $80,000 in restitution for Pennsylvania customers of Aliera HealthCare, as well as a $20,000 civil penalty stemming from an investigation into Aliera HealthCare's improper insurance practices. As part of this investigation and in response to communication from the department, Aliera HealthCare stopped actively marketing or offering health care sharing ministry memberships in the Commonwealth as of December 2019.
"The Wolf Administration's first priority is consumer protection," Commissioner Altman said. "The department's thorough investigation in this case ensures that this company will not continue to offer services and engage in misleading and deceptive business practices in Pennsylvania. The department is committed to forceful action to protect consumers when entities are not in compliance with Pennsylvania's insurance laws."
The department initiated an investigation into Aliera HealthCare in 2019 following complaints from consumers who had unpaid medical bills despite having "coverage" through Aliera. PID also received complaints from consumers alleging misleading and deceptive business practices against Aliera.
Aliera claimed that it was operating in compliance with Pennsylvania's insurance laws. Health care sharing ministries, when operated consistently with Pennsylvania's statutory criteria, are not insurance products; rather they are voluntary arrangements in which members that share a common set of religious beliefs have the opportunity to share the financial cost of medical bills with other members of that religious community.
The department's investigation concluded that Aliera does not meet the requirements established in The Insurance Department Act of 1921, as amended, which lists the criteria for religious sharing ministries and publications. The investigation also found that Aliera violated the Insurance Laws of the Commonwealth, did not properly report administrative actions taken against it by multiple other states across the country, improperly withheld or misappropriated consumers' administrative fees in the course of doing business, and has demonstrated a lack of general fitness and competence to satisfy that it is worthy of licensure.
As a result of the investigation, Aliera has entered into a Consent Order with the department, agreeing to cease and desist from engaging in activities related to health care sharing ministries, pay restitution totaling $79,785.49 to the 95 Pennsylvania members where administrative fees were improperly collected, and pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the Commonwealth for the violations established in the consent order.
"Shopping for health insurance can be stressful enough, without having to worry about whether the company you are purchasing "coverage" with is deceptively selling a product that is not insurance," said Altman. "Legitimate Pennsylvania insurance companies have strict standards and regulations that they must follow. The department will not stand for misleading and deceiving consumers, and we are committed to rooting out entities in the insurance industry that flout our rules."
Consumers who believe their health plans are not in compliance with Commonwealth law or regulations, or who have questions about the benefits to which they are entitled, are urged to contact the Insurance Department's Bureau of Consumer Services online or at 1-877-881-6388.