Court Finds Medical Bill Reimbursement Claim Subject to “Biblically-Based Mediation and Arbitration”
A Mississippi federal court granted a motion to compel arbitration of a claim for reimbursement of medical expenses from the defendant, a company that provides health care sharing plan alternatives to those of Christian faith. The plaintiff had signed a membership agreement stating that he would abide by the defendant’s guidelines, under which members, such as the plaintiff, were required to exhaust an “appeals” process for challenging bill-sharing decisions before resorting to any sort of legal procedures against the defendant. If the appeals process did not resolve the dispute, a “biblically-based mediation and arbitration” clause in the guidelines stated that any and all disputes arising out of the membership agreement shall be settled by “biblically-based mediation.” If that mediation fails, the member may submit the dispute to an independent and objective arbitrator for binding arbitration but otherwise waives his or her right to file a lawsuit.
Addressing the defendant’s motion, the court first held that the provision above constituted a valid arbitration agreement and that the subject dispute fell within the scope thereof. The court noted that the plaintiff had indeed agreed that he “will bring no suit, legal claim or demand of any sort … in the civil court system, with the sole exception of enforcing any favorable arbitration award or mediated agreement.” As such, the court explained that arbitration was required unless a federal statute or policy rendered the plaintiff’s claim non-arbitrable. Because the plaintiff failed to identify any such statute or policy, the court granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.
Pettey v. Medi Share, No. 2:19-cv-00059 (S.D. Miss. Oct. 1, 2019).