****Updated 10/31/17: We now have a healthcare sharing ministry. We went with Christian Healthcare Ministries.
Can I be honest with you for a moment? I hate health insurance – well, not the insurance itself just the way insurance in the U.S. works. Last year, the company my husband works for had an AMAZING health insurance policy. Like the crème de la crème kind. Granted it was a slightly higher premium that we were paying but honestly, I would gladly pay it because it was truly worth it.
But then came 2016, and my husband’s company decided it needed to slash costs yet again so they decided to go with an Affordable Care Act plan (a.k.a. “Obama Care”). You see, with an ACA plan the premiums are considerably cheaper for both the company you work for and for you, but the deductibles are astronomical.
For example, our deductibles in 2015 with our awesome insurance policy were $2,000 individual and $4,000 family and then the insurance paid 100% of the costs after the deductible was met. Awesome sauce. Our new policy deductibles are $3,500 individual and $10,500 family and the insurance will only pay 80% of the cost after that leaving us with 20% that we still have to pay for out of pocket.
Not awesome sauce.
So, we decided to do some digging into health care sharing ministries to see if they would prove to be a better option. Truthfully, we really wanted to go with one in particular but we didn’t have much time to make an informed decision (my husband’s company only gave us two days – which were over a weekend so we couldn’t call around and speak to anyone). But I wanted to share our findings with y’all so hopefully you can make an informed decision on what may be best for you.
Okay, so there are four main health care sharing ministries out there: Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Liberty Health Share, and Christian Care Ministry. They all work basically the same way with a few variations between them.
The great thing with health care sharing ministries is that you get to avoid a lot of the red tape associated with traditional insurance companies, but one of the downsides is that since they aren’t an insurance company they are not held by the same laws that an insurance company is. In other words, if they choose to deny payment for certain things, they can.
In fact, many of these organizations state that anything that they believe to be experimental in nature will be denied payment. Now, this could mean many different things so it’s very unclear on what exactly they consider “experimental” but I’ve heard that certain fertility treatments have been treated as experimental along with several procedures for severe illnesses and even certain treatments for autism.
Again, I have no personal experience with this so I can’t tell you if this is true or not. Those are just some of the things that I’ve heard about from others.
Samaritan is one you’ve probably heard of because they’ve been around since I can remember. And honestly, they were the one that my husband and I immediately said “no” to. The reason being was because it was pretty confusing to figure out based on their online materials how things work and we’re still unclear on the whole process. But they have incredible reviews so they are probably still worth checking out and they were the cheapest option we could find.
They do have a Catholic sector but I’m not entirely sure on it…there were some things that threw me about it. But, I did like that through CURO (the Catholic sector), you get to receive a debit card share for payment processing. Here’s more info on the Catholic sector.
For a 3 or more household the monthly payment amount is $405.00.
Christian Healthcare Ministries
This one was our favorite out of all of them due to the fact that we know several people that use them and were able to get a user review of the process. The way this one works is similar to how insurance works so it makes more sense and we found it to be less confusing. You pay your monthly amount and then you’d have to pay your deductible based on the plan you chose and after that your bills will be paid out of the share up to a certain amount (based on the plan you picked). The downside to this one was that you couldn’t become pregnant until after you’ve been with them for at least a year – no worries, we’re not planning to have a four kid anytime soon. 😉
For a Gold level membership for a household of 3 or more, the monthly payment amount is $450.00. ***Updated: this is the plan that we went with. We added the Brother’s Keeper option to this plan. Head here for Christian Healthcare Ministries plan details.
Liberty Health Share
Liberty was one that I had never heard of but honestly, they have a great plan in place because they were the only one that listed that they have medical discounts available. Now, if you don’t know why that’s important let me give you a little insurance education from my medical billing and coding career (that lasted a day because it was awful). Insurance companies typically have negotiated rates with providers so when your doctor sends in a claim on your behalf, the insurance company will pay based on their already negotiated rates. So let’s say, you have a doctor’s visit that is going to cost $500. You pay your $30 copay, the doctor’s office sends off your claim to your provider; they agree to pay their negotiated rate which is $300 and the total price gets knocked down by $200.
Great, but what does that have to do with Liberty? Liberty has discounts available similar to the insurance companies negotiated rates – so instead of ending up with a $500 bill that has be paid you’d end up with a $300 bill that can shared (depending on your plan) with the other members of your plan. Thus saving everyone money.
For a Liberty Complete plan for a family of 3 or more, the monthly payment amount is $449.00.
Christian Care Ministry
Christian Care Ministry works similar to Christian Healthcare Ministries but they do have a fee associated with anyone that is considered high risk – so someone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other chronic illness may be considered high risk and will have to pay more a month. They do offer a discount to those that are in great health but you do have to through an approval process to be determined if you qualify or not.
Also, they offer different premium amounts based on your deductible amount (I’m calling it a deductible even though that’s not technically what it is). The higher deductible you chose, the lower your premium every month is.
For a household with a deductible amount of $3,750.00 the monthly amount is $454.00.
Some other things to consider
Okay, so I already mentioned that most of these types of organizations will not pay for anything they deem experimental in nature but they also won’t accept those that are smokers….and in case you’re new here, my husband is a smoker so obviously this one detail threw a wrench in the system for us. Also, many people told us that if you drink (even in moderation) and they find out they will cancel you.
Again, I have no idea how true that is but I feel that is an important element to take into consideration. Another important factor is if you’re an unwed mother, they will not accept your application and they will not provide maternity payments if you’re not married. The exception to this rule is if you are a widow and were pregnant before your husband passed. Otherwise, they will not offer help.
Another thing to keep in mind that some of these organizations will not cover the cost of immunizations but some may require it (unless the child has a specific illness or allergy and is unable to be vaccinated). Many will also not cover pre-existing conditions until you’ve been with them for a year or more (remember, these are not insurance companies and are not held to the same laws as insurance companies are).
And taxes….all payments made are not tax deductible, but any payments made above your plan contributions can be reported as giving towards charity (you’ll have to look into each organizations specific requirements and speak to a CPA for further clarification).
The Good News
So I’ve mentioned a lot of negatives in this post and those negatives are the reason why at this time we decided against a health sharing ministry, but they aren’t completely off the table as there are some definite benefits to being a part of one.
If you’ve ever paid for a private insurance policy before you know that the premiums are crazy high and the only way to make the premium lower is to get an ACA plan, which as I mentioned before lowers your premium but makes your deductibles higher and can end up costing you more money in the long run. So, a healthcare sharing ministry is a great way to keep your premiums, deductibles, and healthcare costs low, which is why we may still end up with one in the next few years.
****Update 10/31/17: We now have a healthcare sharing ministry. We went with Christian Healthcare Ministries.
If you’re with a healthcare sharing ministry, we’d love to hear about your experience!
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