A little-known alternative to traditional health insurance may be ready to step into the limelight. Health care sharing ministries, which have been around for nearly three decades, aren’t actually insurance but they can fill the same role as insurance for many people. For the uninsured who would like to have some form of protection and funding for serious medical care, a health care sharing ministry might be the right answer.
CNBC reported the other day on health care sharing ministries:
…Here’s how it works: To join Medi-Share, members must pledge their Christian faith and promise not to drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a traditional marriage. A reference from a minister may also be requested. Certain pre-existing conditions render applicants ineligible, while chronic issues such as obesity sometimes lead to acceptance into the program contingent on undergoing wellness counseling.
The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance rehab, or some preventive medicine, including colonoscopies and annual mammograms. Those policies lead to lower costs for all members, Meggs said.
When you have a medical bill, you submit it to the organization. If it meets the eligibility requirements and your annual medical expenses have exceeded the threshold in the plan you signed up for, the bill is “shared”—that is, covered…
“Sharing medical bills through Medi-Share has saved individuals an average of 32 percent (or $945) per year and families an average of 47 percent (or $2,944) per year when compared to paying an average insurance premium,” Medi-Share said in a 2011 press release.
There are two other health care sharing ministries, Samaritan Ministries and Christian Healthcare Ministries. From the research I’ve done on health care sharing ministries, it appears that the ‘shares’ (what would be called premiums by a health insurance company) are typically anywhere from one-third to two-thirds less than roughly comparable health insurance. And because they are not actually insurance companies, they are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act and therefore don’t have to provide services or benefits that some might have a religious or moral objection to, such as contraception.
There is one additional element that may be attractive to some individuals and families – the Affordable Care Act has a provision in it that exempts the members of health care sharing ministries from having to pay the tax penalty for being uninsured!
Whether a health care sharing ministry is right for you will depend on a number of factors, most obviously whether you are a Christian who lives your life according to the conditions required (which don’t strike me as being that onerous for most, although definitely for some!). But if you are uninsured and don’t have any conflicts with the requirements for membership in a health care sharing ministry, then you might want to consider joining a health care sharing ministry.