SACRAMENTO – In a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing, members of the California Senate Republican Caucus voted against Democrats’ efforts to penalize members of Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs). HCSMs are an alternative form of health care coverage for members of faith-based communities, and HCSM members are exempted from individual mandate penalties under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Senator Jim Nielsen, Vice Chair of the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee, voted against the proposal.
“Californians should not be denied affordable healthcare because of their religious beliefs. Healthcare sharing ministries were a vital component of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama. With this action, the majority party is squeezing families who use healthcare sharing ministries, and will cause them a tremendous financial burden.” -Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama)
“We must be inclusive and stop these attacks on faith-based communities. The latest action taken by Senate Democrats is hurtful, wrong, and affects thousands of families in California. I’m proud that members of the Senate Republican Caucus are advocating for families who find strength in their faith and standing up for religious freedom and consumer choice.” - Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield)
On a partisan vote, Sacramento Senate Democrats voted to eliminate the exemption from the individual mandate which was explicitly protected by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Importantly, it is worth noting that even Governor Newsom’s individual mandate proposal does not extend the penalty to members of health care sharing ministries.
Republican Senators Brian Jones, John Moorlach, Mike Morrell, and Jeff Stone are also members of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and in support of protecting the exemption from the individual mandate penalty for members of faith-based communities.
“A few Democratic legislators are continuing their attack on religious freedom and personal family decisions, including the right to have the level of health coverage, you want, or don’t want, for your family. To paraphrase a former President, ‘If you like your health coverage as is, you ought to be able to keep it.’ We finally got Congress to nullify the wrongheaded coverage ‘penalty,’ and yet those same Senate Democrats can’t seem to stop attacking our personal freedoms and sticking their hands in our pockets to pay for it.” - Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee)
“Health Care Sharing Ministries provide an alternative co-op business strategy for covering medical costs. They are the consummate community-based self-insurance model. Consequently, this long standing and ACA authorized approach deserves an honest critique, but not the harshness an improperly constructed budget trailer bill can impose.” – Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa)
“Participants in health care sharing-ministries have played by the rules in obtaining health coverage for themselves in accordance with their beliefs, needs, and what they have decided is best for their families. Now legislative Democrats are again ready to tax, overregulate, and penalize them for following the law. Their socialistic agenda to interfere in our personal lives should concern every Californian.” - Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga)
“Tens of thousands of hard working people across our state have chosen to utilize Health Care Sharing Ministries for their healthcare insurance needs. This program has been in existence for decades, and more than a million people across America have chosen to participate in this alternative to high-cost insurance plans. Californians using this successful option for healthcare should not be penalized for their choice to save money while also protecting their families.” - Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County)
The recent action in the Senate Budget Committee is not the final decision, as the California State Assembly would have to vote to remove the exemption.