Healthcare is a hot-button issue in the United States and one that arouses passion in many people. Regardless of their beliefs about how healthcare should be provided and paid for, most people would probably agree that the healthcare markets have been roiled in recent years and costs have risen for many people.
Some Americans are dealing with rising healthcare costs by opting out of the traditional health insurance markets altogether and into faith-based healthcare cost sharing. Joining one of these organizations meets the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase some type of healthcare coverage or pay a fine.
Growing Popularity Since the ACA
Faith-based healthcare cost-sharing organizations aren’t new — they’ve been in existence for several decades. But they have grown more popular over the past few years as many people have looked for healthcare alternatives to the ACA’s insurance exchanges, which can be cost-prohibitive for some individuals and families who don’t receive government subsidies to help pay for insurance.
The initial realization about faith-based healthcare cost sharing is that isn’t just a different kind of health insurance — rather, it isn’t health insurance at all. Faith-based healthcare cost-sharing organizations aren’t licensed by state insurance boards or regulated by any government authorities and they don’t guarantee that members’ healthcare expenses will be covered. Each organization has its own guidelines that specify under what circumstances members can share each other’s healthcare expenses.
Another important distinction is that these organizations generally accept all applicants who agree to a statement of beliefs or shared values and also agree to lead a healthy lifestyle. This generally includes not using any forms of tobacco or illegal drugs and not abusing alcohol or prescription drugs. Some of the organizations require members to be practicing Christians who live by biblical principles and attend group worship regularly.
The organizations do not typically reject potential members due to pre-existing health conditions. However, they may exclude from cost sharing expenses associated with these conditions, either permanently or for a limited period of time. Also, they generally don’t cover healthcare expenses associated with dental and vision care.
A Closer Look at the Options
Following is a closer look at three faith-based healthcare cost-sharing organizations currently in operation:
- Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) — This was the first faith-based healthcare cost-sharing organization, forming more than 35 years ago. CHM members have shared more $2.5 billion in each other’s healthcare costs since it was founded.
CHM features three different membership levels: Gold at a cost of $150 per month, Silver at a cost of $85 per month, and Bronze at a cost of $45 per month (all costs are per person, with a maximum cost of $450 per family). At the Gold level, members can receive up to $125,000 in cost sharing per health incident (qualifying illness or injury) after paying the first $500 as their “personal responsibility.” At the Silver level, the personal responsibility rises to $1,000 and at the Bronze level, it rises to $5,000. Members can offset their personal responsibility by obtaining discounts from healthcare providers.
By joining an additional CHM program called Brother’s Keeper, Gold members can receive unlimited cost sharing per health incident. Cost-sharing increases by $100,000 at the Silver and Bronze levels for Brother’s Keeper participants.
Visit www.chministries.org for more details on how CHM works.
- Medi-Share — This organization was formed in 1993 and is administered by Christian Care Ministry, Inc. More than $2 billion in healthcare costs have been shared since then and there are currently more than 325,000 Medi-Share members.
Membership options in Medi-Share are based on the household size and the Annual Household Portion (or AHP), which is similar to CHM’s personal responsibility. AHP is the amount members must pay themselves before their medical bills are eligible for sharing. There are seven different AHP options: $500, $1,250, $2,500, $3,750, $5,000, $7,500, and $10,000.
Membership prices are based on a variety of factors such as age, AHP level and the number of people applying per family. Once the AHP has been met, eligible medical bills can be shared on an unlimited basis.
Visit https://mychristiancare.org/medi-share/ for more details on how Medi-Share works.
- Liberty Healthshare — This organization was formed in 1995 and is part of the Gospel Light Mennonite Church Medical Aid Plan, Inc. Liberty Healthshare features three different membership levels.
Liberty Complete allows sharing of eligible medical bills up to $1 million per incident after the annual unshared amount (similar to CHM’s personal responsibility and Medi-Share’s AHP) has been paid by the member. Liberty Plus allows sharing of eligible medical bills up to $125,000 per incident after the annual unshared amount has been paid by the member. Liberty Share allows sharing of 70% of eligible medical bills up to $125,000 per incident after the annual unshared amount has been paid by the member.
Membership prices are based on members’ ages and how many family member are joining. The annual unshared amounts are $500 for an individual, $1,000 for a couple and $1,500 for a family.
Visit https://www.libertyhealthshare.org for more details on how Medi-Share works.
Worth a Look?
Faith-based healthcare cost-sharing organizations probably aren’t the best healthcare option for everyone. But if you’re searching for a more affordable alternative to traditional health insurance for your family, they might be worth a closer look.