Health Sharing Ministries
How it works
While they aren’t considered “health insurance,” healthcare sharing ministries provide meaningful financial protection for families who want to share their healthcare expenses with other like-minded families with the goal of keeping everyone’s out-of-pocket costs low. Individuals and families who choose healthcare sharing ministries pay a monthly “sharing amount” similar to a health insurance premium. Depending on the program they choose, they can enjoy many of the same perks of traditional health insurance – perks like discounts on healthcare, limited out-of-pocket limits, and predictable monthly payments. The biggest benefit, however, is the way the monthly sharing amounts are priced. Depending on the plan chosen and family size, monthly payments for healthcare sharing plans can be significantly cheaper than traditional health insurance plans purchased through the ACA – maybe even half the cost or less. Deductibles are typically a lot lower than ACA plans as well, although it depends on the plan you choose.
Here are things you should know before considering Healthcare Sharing Ministries:
Healthcare Sharing Ministries costs roughly half of traditional health insurance.
Enrolling in a healthcare sharing ministries are considered qualified coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Telemedicine is free
Telemedicine is taking healthcare by storm right now. If you haven’t tried telemedicine (doctor visits through your phone or computer), you might be surprised at their effectiveness. Though statistics vary, roughly 70% of all doctor and urgent care visits can be remedied by a quick telemedicine visit. This process, which takes roughly 15 minutes start to finish, often results in a diagnosis, and a prescription is written for pickup at your favorite local pharmacy when necessary.
There is a statement of belief requirement
Healthcare sharing ministries also expect their customers to be people of faith who are practicing their religion on a regular basis, although they may not necessarily require you to prove your religious beliefs. Generally speaking, these plans just ask you to agree to a statement of faith when you sign up.
Prescription discount plans
While healthcare sharing ministries offer a minimum level of coverage if you get sick, most don’t offer comprehensive prescription drug plans. If you want to avoid paying too much out-of-pocket for your prescriptions, you may be better off with a traditional health insurance plan.
Services not covered
Further, since these plans are belief-based, they don’t consider all forms of healthcare necessary, meaning many services won’t be covered. While it depends on the plan and sharing ministry you choose, this typically means you won’t get coverage for certain types of birth control or other services the group decides are unethical.
While traditional ACA plans can offer very narrow networks, most healthcare sharing ministries will let you see any doctor or specialist you want provided they accept this coverage.
You can enroll anytime
One of the most popular times to enroll, in fact, is right after open enrollment.
No renewal necessary
Traditional health insurance plans are offered in a year-over-year basis. At the end of a given calendar year, the plans will undergo various changes, including higher rates and various benefits changes like higher deductibles and new pharmaceutical restrictions. Though the rates will increase slightly with member age, coverage does not need to be renewed with your healthcare sharing ministry health plan. Just pay your bill, and you’re good to go.
No subsidies available
If you earn more than 400% of the current poverty level and don’t qualify for subsidies that make healthcare more affordable, you may find healthcare sharing ministries are less expensive.
Preexisting conditions may have a waiting period
Unlike traditional insurance, which covers all preexisting conditions from day one, Healthcare Sharing Ministries may require a waiting period before covering. While this is the official rule on preexisting conditions, Healthcare Sharing Ministries does allow members to make extra contributions towards other member’s medical needs. This frequently results in non-covered issues being taken care of financially. Just don’t rely on this.
There are plan limits
Healthcare Sharing Ministries caps coverage at various “per-incident” and lifetime limits. While the lifetime limit is 1 million dollars across all plans, the per-incident amount varies depending on which tier you select.
While Healthcare Sharing Ministries may look, and act, a lot like insurance (taking in premium money and paying out claims) it is not technically health insurance. Insurance is highly regulated, by the department of insurance (DOI).
At the end of the day, the best way to find the right plan for yourself or your family is to look at your unique situation and determine which plan might offer better protection without costing too much or sacrificing your quality of care.