Health Sharing Ministries
Christian Health Sharing organizations are an attractive option for people looking for an alternative to Obamacare or traditional health insurance. They aren’t for everyone, but more and more people are turning to these ministries for their healthcare needs.
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We are often asked about health sharing ministries. So we are going to honestly discuss them here – their advantages and disadvantages.
And (spoiler alert)… We’re excited to announce we now have a strong health sharing plan option for our clients.
What are Health Sharing organizations?
Health Sharing organizations are founded upon biblical ideals of believers “carrying one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Members covenant together to take care of each other’s healthcare costs. The home office coordinates and administrates this care, setting contribution amounts for members and facilitating payment for needs
This takes different forms in different organizations. Some have members mail checks directly to other members, while others have members send contributions directly to the home office, who then sends the funds to meet member needs.
It is very important to note that health share ministries are NOT offering insurance plans. Rather, they facilitate the voluntary sharing of medical costs amongst members.
Health Share members are considered “self-pay” patients by medical providers, though some ministries provide ID cards for members to use when getting care.
The Advantages of Health Sharing Plans
There are many reasons people opt to join a health sharing ministry instead of purchasing traditional health insurance (on or off the Obamacare Marketplace). Here are some of the main advantages these plans offer:
- Lower monthly payments. The monthly “contributions” or “shares” required by a health sharing ministry are almost always cheaper than individual/family health insurance premiums.
- Members are exempt from Obamacare penalties. This is a big deal. If you participate in a qualified health sharing ministry, you are exempted from the “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act, so there are no fines for not having insurance.
- Networks are less important. Some HSM have no network affiliations at all, meaning you’re free to choose your doctors and hospitals. Some have negotiated better payment arrangements with a network of providers, so you’ll have less out-of-pocket costs with those providers.
- You can enroll anytime. You are not limited to an annual open enrollment period.
- Lower out-of-pocket costs. In most cases, the level at which sharing begins is lower than a typical insurance deductible. And because members are considered self-pay patients, many doctors and providers will give you lower prices upfront.
- Conscience issues. Some people are motivated by the biblical mandates these organizations express. They also appreciate that their contributions are not used to support lifestyles or practices that are contrary to their biblical convictions (such as abortions or abortifacient drugs).
The Disadvantages of Health Sharing Plans
While there are a number of advantages, you need to be aware of the disadvantages so you can make an informed decision.
- You are ultimately responsible for all payments. These organizations do not provide legally guaranteed benefits in the same way that you have with an insurance policy (a legal contract). Now, most sharing ministries have been around for a long time and have stellar track records that demonstrate their members are truly committed to each other. Just know there’s no legal guarantee.
- You won’t have all of the same benefits. Each health sharing ministry has it’s own plan and approach to what is shared and what is not. For example, many do not share any routine care (preventive care or basic doctor visits). You may not have an office visit copay. Mental health benefits are quite different.
- Pre-existing conditions and health history matters. In most cases, a pre-existing condition will not be covered by sharing ministries, at least not at first. Some ministries will assign you a higher contribution level based on health or weight factors. Some may not accept you as a member at all if the risk is too great.
Are All Health Sharing Plans Alike?
While all health sharing organizations share a general biblical philosophy and approach to health sharing, they differ in the details of exactly how it all works.
There are five health sharing organizations that have been recognized by the government as possessing valid waivers (i.e. members are exempt from the Obamacare mandate). They are:
- Altrua HealthShare
- Christian Healthcare Ministries
- Liberty HealthShare
- Medi-Share (Christian Care Ministry)
- Samaritan Ministries
AC Forrest now partners with Altrua HealthShare to provide our clients with another viable option for their health care needs.
Why Altrua HealthShare
Altrua HealthShare offers a very robust sharing program that serves the needs of thousands of people. Members covenant with one another to share with each other so that qualified health needs can be met.
Here are a few more details that make Altrua HealthShare attractive:
- Altrua’s statement of standards. In sharing ministries, members typically must sign on to a statement of faith. Altrua is unique in that members sign a “Statement of Standards” that involves lifestyle choices that are consistent with the Bible, but does not require any kind of theological agreement or pastoral oversight.
Click here to read the Altrua Health Share Statement of Standards.
- Streamlined administration. Unlike most other ministries, Altrua members do not mail monthly checks directly to other members. Instead, they are mailed directly to Altrua, who places them in an escrow account from which sharing is dispersed to those with needs. This also means that those receiving funds will get them more quickly and efficiently (i.e. not as much lag time between the need and the payment).
- The ID card. It seems like a small thing, but Altrua members have an ID card that instructs providers how to process and file their charges directly with Altrua. So members don’t have to handle the paperwork load on their own, as they do in some other health sharing organizations.
- Network savings. Altrua gives members access to the large PHCS network of providers for additional savings. While members are not required to remain in this network, their out-of-pocket costs are lower if they do.
We’re apparently not the only ones who like Altrua. So do it’s members.
In fact, Altrua has an outrageous 98% member retention rate.
Ready to apply? Here’s the next step:
Interested? Got questions? No problem:
Altrua HealthShare is a faith-based medical-need sharing membership. Medical needs are only shared by the members according to the membership guidelines. Our members agree to the Statement of Standards and voluntarily submit monthly contributions into an escrow account with Altrua HealthShare acting as a neutral escrow agent between members. Organizations like ours have been operating successfully for years. We are including the following caveat for all to consider.
This publication or membership is not issued by an insurance company, nor is it offered through an insurance company. This publication or the membership does not guarantee or promise that your eligible medical needs will be shared by the membership. This publication or the membership should never be considered as a substitute for an insurance policy. If the publication or the membership is unable to share in all or part of your eligible medical needs, or whether or not this membership continues to operate, you will remain financially liable for any and all unpaid medical needs.
This is not a legally binding agreement to reimburse any member for medical needs a member may incur, but is instead, an opportunity for members to care for one another in a time of need, to present their medical needs to other members as outlined in the membership guidelines. The financial assistance members receive will come from other members’ monthly contributions that are placed in an escrow account, not from Altrua HealthShare.