John Oliver’s found religion again. Or at least he’s found another way to point out how easy it is to use religion to scam people out of money. And somehow it also involves the worst thing in the world: health insurance.
Last Week Tonight’s latest episode digs into something that might actually be worse than the health insurance industry: health care sharing ministries, a purported insurance alternative that has exploded in popularity over the last few years, particularly with conservatives who don’t have private insurance and refuse to take advantage of ObamaCare. The gist of it, if, like me, you’d never heard of ‘em before: members of a health care sharing ministry share the burden of reimbursing each other for medical bills, through the auspices of a religious organization, and if the word “reimburse” immediately flashes a red light for you, well, that’s only one of the common problems with the concept that Oliver explains. It seems some HCSMs pretty much do everything in their power to not pay its members’ bills, relying on “morality” clauses to reject anything that could contradict the religious or spiritual beliefs of its organization. If you drink, smoke, are gay, have sex out of wedlock, or are even just overweight, your HCSM could refuse to pay out. And because these groups can claim almost anything violates their morals, they have wide leeway to wiggle out of payments. As Oliver points out, the percentage of money that members pay in that actually gets allocated to their medical costs is incredibly low, far lower than with health insurance policies, making the whole thing sound like a big scam.
Of course, with health insurance tied to employment in America, and unemployment still being high, many people who are out of work are looking for healthcare alternatives, and some shameless companies have used the promise of HCSMs to give them a false peace of mind. And since Oliver and his show already have a history of creating religious organizations to highlight the legal and regulatory loopholes churches can use to maximize profits, it’s not too surprising that he would actually set up his own health care sharing ministry, through the Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption church the show established back in 2015. Last night Oliver revealed his own health care sharing ministry, Our Lady of Perpetual Health, and its healthcare plan, JohnnyCare; once again, he had Rachel Dratch on hand to help out as his Tammy Faye Bakker-esque televangelist “wife.” HCSM laws are so lax in Florida that Oliver was able to set up JohnnyCare there despite not being affiliated with a real church and despite having a plan that is literally just distributing three band aids to members, and then rejecting any other claims. Membership is limited to 5000 Florida residents, who, for a fee of $1.99, will get a JohnnyCare-branded first aid kit with those three bandages in ‘em. You can find more info at JohnnyCare’s official web site (because of course they set up an official web site, that’s what this show does), FreedomFromHealthCare.org, although I’m going to assume they’ve already hit that 5000 member limit since this segment first aired last night.
Watch the whole segment below, and if you live in Florida, good luck with your new JohnnyCare plan.