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March 12, 2020

Around the nation: California takes aim at health sharing ministry operator

Daily Briefing

    The California Department of Insurance claims Trinity HealthShare and Aliera market their products as an alternative to health insurance but do not provide consumers with comprehensive health care coverage, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from California and Massachusetts.  

    • California: Huntington Hospital on Monday signed a letter of intent to affiliate with Cedars-Sinai Health System. Under the proposed affiliation agreement, Huntington Hospital would operate independently, but Cedars-Sinai Health System would invest in the development of the hospital's ambulatory services, information technology infrastructure, and physicians. The hospital and health system plan to reach a definitive agreement and seek regulatory approval for the deal (O'Brien, HealthLeaders Media, 3/10).

    • California: Ricardo Lara, California's insurance commissioner, on Tuesday announced the California Department of Insurance has ordered Trinity HealthShare, which operates health sharing ministries, and Aliera, which sells memberships to such plans, to stop illegally marketing their products. The department claims Trinity HealthShare and Aliera market the products as an alternative to health insurance but do not provide consumers with comprehensive health care coverage. Health care sharing ministries, which operate cost-sharing funds that help members pay for medical expenses, are not subject to state regulation and are exempt from Affordable Care Act requirements. Aliera said the company plans to contest the state's order (Abelson, New York Times, 3/10).

    • Massachusetts: Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an interview with WBUR said hospitals in Massachusetts will not have the capacity to treat patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Jha noted that epidemiologists have estimated 40% to 70% of adults will become infected with the virus, and data from China suggests 20% of patients with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, which would mean 400,000 patients would need to be hospitalized in the state. However, Jha said there are up to 4,000 hospital beds available at any given time in Massachusetts. To treat a possible influx in patients, Jha said hospitals will need to be "creative about expanding the supply of hospital beds and ICU beds" and consider a number of options, including "converting things like [ORs] into ICUs" (Jolicoeur/Mullins, WBUR, 3/10).

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