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 are increasing in popularity.
WHAT ARE HEALTH SHARING ORGANIZATIONS?
Health Sharing organizations are founded upon biblical ideals of believers “carrying one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). The idea is that 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.
Members of health sharing organizations are considered “self-pay” patients by medical providers, though some ministries provide ID cards for members to use when getting care.
So while it’s not the same thing, you can see how the concept of faith-based health sharing is similar.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Health Sharing Plans
There are many reasons people opt to join a health sharing ministry instead of purchasing traditional health insurance, but you need to be aware of the drawbacks to this alternative.
ADVANTAGES OF HEALTH SHARING PLANS
- 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.
DISADVANTAGES OF HEALTH SHARING PLANS
- 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). Some of the larger sharing ministries have been around for a long time and have solid track records of members successfully sharing with each other. Just know there’s no legal guarantee of coverage.
- You won’t have all of the same benefits. Each health sharing ministry has its 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.
- There may be a significant administrative burden. You will likely have to manage much of the paperwork process yourself. Many healthcare providers will not recognize health sharing ministries and so you will have to file everything yourself.
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 differences on how they administer funds and payments, on the theological or lifestyle requirements, and on what expenses are shared.
LEARN ABOUT MEDI-SHARE
AC Forrest partners with Medi-Share to provide our clients with another viable option for their health care needs.
Medi-Share is our preferred partner for health sharing because of the sheer size of their membership and their many years of experience in caring for the needs of their members.
Want to learn more about health sharing? Got questions? Let’s talk!
Aren’t sure if health sharing is right for you? If you have questions about your particular needs and situations, we’d love to talk to you. Get in touch below: