New York State accused a major Christian group on Tuesday of deceiving customers by illegally offering health insurance to as many as 40,000 residents since 2016.
The state filed civil charges against Trinity Healthshare, the Christian group, and Aliera, a for-profit company that markets the plans.
The state insurance regulators’ complaint included a list of charges, which said Trinity and Aliera “aggressively marketed and sold their products to consumers in the health insurance marketplace, preying on people who were uninsured and deceiving consumers into paying hundreds of dollars per month for what they were led to believe was comprehensive health coverage.”
New York regulators said patients were often left with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills. A woman with leukemia was denied coverage for an emergency hospital stay that cost thousands of dollars because she was told she had a pre-existing condition. Aliera denied a $15,000 claim for breast cancer treatment, according to regulators, while another patient said even routine doctor’s visits were not covered by Trinity.
State officials said the cases of financial hardship were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has spawned high unemployment and resulted in the loss of health insurance for millions of Americans.
“New Yorkers should not have to worry whether a trip to a medical professional could lead them to bankruptcy, a factor that has been compounded by this unprecedented global health crisis,” Linda A. Lacewell, the state’s superintendent of financial services, said in a statement.
The state said it would seek civil penalties and other relief on behalf of consumers, and had issued a cease-and-desist letter in April that prevented the group from enrolling new customers.
Both Trinity and Aliera have been the targets of actions by other states, including Connecticut and Washington. They say they are not selling health insurance and that there is no confusion about their plans. They say customers are expressly told there is no guarantee that their medical bills will be covered.
Customers “must acknowledge either on a recorded line or by signature that the program is not insurance,” Aliera said in a statement on Tuesday. It said plans would not be affordable if all pre-existing conditions were eligible for sharing but they “are a legitimate option for people of faith who maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Given the health crisis, “it’s deeply concerning to see New York State regulators working to deny their residents access to more affordable alternatives to traditional health insurance,” Aliera said.
Trinity disputed the claims made by state regulators. “The vast majority of Trinity’s members around the country are very pleased and satisfied with Trinity’s health care sharing ministry and continue to choose to participate in Trinity’s ministry as a cost-effective arrangement,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.
In New Hampshire, where Trinity and Aliera are suing to block the state’s efforts to regulate their activities, a Superior Court judge in Merrimack County halted an administrative hearing to be held by regulators until their court case is resolved.
With the economic downturn’s
With more than 50,000 respondents from across multiple geographies, a Gympik survey tracks key wellness trends such as mental health, emerging fitness solutions, and new industry challenges
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The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a drastic impact on every aspect of daily life, whether personal or professional.
The survey titled ‘COVID-19 Fitness Behaviour Survey’ draws insights from the responses of over 50,000 fitness enthusiasts from multiple regions. It maps the changes brought by the pandemic upon the fitness behavior of the Indian consumer. The report reveals trends related to holistic fitness, as well as novel challenges that the Indian fitness industry faces in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The paradigm-changing shift towards digital fitness
A significant finding of the survey details the future shape of a post-pandemic reality. The Gympik survey highlights how consumers have adopted digital fitness solutions to counter the physical restrictions posed by the pandemic.
The extended lockdown drove a massive surge in the demand for virtual classes for yoga by 87 per cent and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio workouts such as Zumba by 72 per cent, aerobics by 67 per cent, and pilates by 22 per cent. Moreover, an overwhelming 84 per cent of fitness enthusiasts tried live-streaming fitness classes at least thrice during the lockdown—marking a significant increase over the corresponding numbers in 2019, which stood at 29 per cent. During the lockdown, 77 per cent of Indians also tried to stay fit by combining household chores with virtual classes and DIY (do-it-yourself) home workout routines.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, it was the younger audiences who led this charge in the demand for virtual fitness. Consumers between 25 and 34 years of age were the most willing to adopt digital fitness solutions, with female users (60 per cent) being more open to virtual classes than male users (40 per cent). Major urban centers such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi/NCR dominated the country’s virtual fitness landscape.
Going back to the gym: Concerns, possible solutions, and the way ahead
The report also analyzed consumer’s enthusiasm toward resuming gym workouts with strong sanitization, social distancing, and spot temperature checks emerging as the key areas of concern.
As gym owners gear up to resume operations, implementing better on-premise sanitization can help them allay such concerns and get their business back to pre-pandemic levels. With customers also open to continue paying for digital fitness post-lockdown, they can also look at implementing hybrid physical/digital memberships to make their business more viable, sustainable, and future-ready.
Holistic health in the pandemic: The challenges and solutions
The social isolation enforced during the lockdown has had a major impact on the mental health of India’s fitness enthusiasts. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the respondents felt the COVID-19 situation has worsened their mental health, with 45 per