What is a Healthcare Sharing Ministry?
Healthcare sharing ministries have been around for a long time. However, their popularity has skyrocketed since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the corresponding sharp increases in premiums for individuals that purchase their own health insurance. It is NOT insurance, but many see it as an alternative to traditional health insurance.
A healthcare sharing ministry IS a faith-based, nonprofit organization of like-minded people with common faith values who have joined together for the purpose of sharing one another’s medical expenses. An internet search yields the names of several options such as Medi-Share, Liberty Healthshare, Samaritan Ministries and Christian Healthcare Ministries.
These plans are increasingly popular because of cost. A new member must select the amount they will be responsible for paying before asking for reimbursement of a medical expense. Then your “monthly portion”, the amount that you contribute each month, is determined. Depending upon the program, it can vary based on age and health factors.
Membership is based on medical eligibility. The rules of the Affordable Care Act do not apply since this is not insurance. A membership application must be submitted that includes health history. A person that does not meet the medical eligibility criteria can be declined for membership.
There is no guarantee that your medical expenses will be reimbursed. The financial stability of a healthcare sharing ministry is critical. From the perspective of a medical provider, a member of a healthcare sharing ministry does not have health insurance and will be personally responsible for all charges incurred.
We are accustomed to utilizing medical providers that belong to a “network” that is affiliated with our health plan. These networks do not exist with healthcare sharing ministries, so you can use any doctor or hospital. Since the medical provider does not have the assurance of payment that comes with traditional health insurance plans, the member may have to pay in advance or provide a guarantee.
Some of the healthcare sharing ministries have preferred providers that may offer lower charges to members. The ministry may also work with members to negotiate lower charges with medical providers. Traditional health insurance offers unlimited benefits. This is not true with healthcare sharing ministries where maximum benefits are defined.
The monthly share for a 40-year-old individual in Lincoln, NE ranges from $116 to $339 with one program. A 40-year-old individual enrolling with Medica would pay from $486 to $764. The interest is obvious with this difference in cost. Be certain to carefully review the financial risk and the difference in having access to care that you are accepting with a healthcare sharing ministry.