John Oliver created a tax-free mock church back in 2015 with “Saturday Night Live” alum Rachel Dratch and this time, he and Dratch have a new venture — a church called “Our Lady of Perpetual Health” that will offer a bogus health care sharing ministry program, JohnnyCare.
The HBO host brought Dratch back as part of a bit to raise awareness of not only how easy it is to create a tax-exempt church, but specifically to call out Florida for its lack of regulation around health care sharing ministry programs. Oliver and his team even created a website at FreedomFromHealthCare.org that (only for Florida residents with $1.99 to spare) will get you a tiny first aid kit. And you’ll be part of the health care sharing network, but Oliver made clear it really won’t cover anything for you, so keep that other insurance policy active.
“I do get the appeal of lower-cost health insurance. The problem is, this isn’t that, it’s not insurance at all and states need, at the very least, to pass laws to make sure that people know what they’re getting into with HCSNs and to force them to allocate funds properly,” Oliver said. “Some are going in the opposite direction, like Florida. In 2018, after intense lobbying, it loosened its restrictions on HCSMs, even going from requiring the participants be members of the same religion to really require that they share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs … and that could be basically anything at this point, the bar to entry is so low, just about anyone can become an HCSM.”
After noting just how easy it was to create a church in 2015 to raise awareness of how tax exemptions from churches allow them to do “terrible things,” Oliver explained the plan for his new fake — but not so fake — place of worship.
“Just three months ago, we officially founded a spin off church called Our Lady of Perpetual Health, and we founded it, where else, but Florida,” Oliver said.
“I’m happy to tell you that church now has its own health care sharing ministry, JohnnyCare, and the whole thing was scarily easy to do. So, without further ado, please join my most blessed congregants after church,” he said, before introducing Rachel Dratch, once again in a teased-up wig and pantsuit. Unlike last time, Dratch appeared via video call because “Last Week Tonight” still isn’t doing live in-studio shows yet.
Oliver even created a six-page “welcome packet” for new members. Here’s a sampling of some of JohnnyCare’s set of “religious beliefs,” which you technically must agree you share before joining the fake ministry:
● I believe in caring for one another (Galatians 6:2).
● I believe in not getting sick.
● I believe in not having a pre-existing condition.
● I believe that I shouldn’t be paying for health care for anyone who might be
sitting on their couch eating Bonbons all day, every day.
● I believe it’s my right to direct my own health care, free from government
restraints, dictates and oversight.
● I believe in JohnnyCare’s right not to pay for my financial or medical needs.
● I believe all my health care needs can be managed with a mini first-aid kit.
This week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight” pointed out health care sharing ministries are usually shady and often very unregulated programs that masquerade as health care providers under the alluring premise that, if you’re paying to be part of one, you can rely on the “ministry” of other people in the group to help you pay for large medical bills.
It sounds like a great premise — get sick, have a bunch of Good Samaritans help you pay the immense medical bill — but it doesn’t work like that. Because health care sharing ministries aren’t insurance companies and are faith-based, they can decide not to help members with coverage on a whim with no repercussions.
“It’s a simple system. If you need medical care, you go to the doctor, you receive it, you request the bill, and then you pay that bill on your own. Oh yeah, because if you submit that bill to us, we’re going to reject it,” Oliver explained.
“From his lips to God’s bigger lips in the sky,” Dratch exclaimed.
As Oliver pointed out, some ministries decline to help members who they find out are gay, or sexually active without being married, or really any number of reasons.
In one recent case, members of a health care ministry sued Aliera Cos. (one of the nonprofits Oliver called out during his segment) for not covering expenses. Another woman in New England was left with $75,000 in medical bills after her sharing network refused to help her pay.
If you do join JohnnyCare, though, you can at least have bragging rights that you own a limited-edition Band-Aid case from “Last Week Tonight.” As Oliver put it, “We’re limiting membership to 5,000 of you in Florida, and not because we have to, but because that is the number of first aid kits that we bought.”
Take a look at the full main story and Oliver and Dratch’s bit at the top of the page.