An Alternative to Healthcare – 3 Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministries

Published on May 22, 2016 by Lauren
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    Lauren and I are self-employed through running this website and our company The Personal Finance Planner. This means we don't have access to employer-based health insurance. And, if you haven't noticed, private insurance is pretty expensive.  What does a family do in a situation like ours? How do we cover not only ourselves but our kids?  We use one of Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministries available.

    Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministries

    As Christians, we do have a few health insurance alternatives that act very much like insurance but with a few twists. What I'm talking about are Christian healthcare sharing ministries.

    There are a number of Christian healthcare sharing ministries and each of them operates differently – so it's important to do your homework before you sign up for one. Here are a few of the most popular ministries and some considerations for each.

    Here are the 3 most popular Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministries:

    1. Christian Healthcare Ministries

    Christian Healthcare Ministries is the original healthcare sharing ministry for Christians. Like many other healthcare sharing ministries, it is nonprofit and operates in a way to allow participating Christians to share each other's medical bills.

    There are three main programs: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. According to their website:

    At the Gold level, you have a $500 personal responsibility per unit, per year. Total bills incurred per medical incident must exceed $500. Obtaining discounts on your bills may reduce or eliminate your $500 personal responsibility amount. You can receive assistance up to $125,000 per illness.

    If you also join “Brother's Keeper” in the Gold program, you will have unlimited financial assistance for all other eligible medical bills. Note that you can join Brother's Keeper in the other programs too, but they have different levels of coverage.

    Lauren and I decided to go with the Silver program which:

    At the Silver level, you have a $1,000 personal responsibility per incident. In other words, you need to pay $1,000 (or receive at least $1,000 worth of discounts on your medical bills) per incident before CHM helps share your expenses. You can receive assistance up to $125,000 per illness.

    This program costs us $170 per month. But you may want to check their current pricing for more information.

    There's also a Bronze program which:

    At the Bronze level, you have a $5,000 personal responsibility per incident. In other words, you need to pay $5,000 (or receive at least $5,000 worth of discounts on your medical bills) per incident before CHM helps share your expenses. You can receive assistance up to $125,000 per illness.

    We had a make a claim last year when Mark had a health scare and it was a pretty simple process. The total cost of all his accrued medical bills was $4,000. We had to gather up all of our bills and submit to CHM as a single claim. They paid off everything other than $1,000.  I was very impressed by how easy the process was.

    Our kids covered through some amazing state-run healthcare programs. We only pay $90 per month to get them all covered. If we didn't have this option, we'd probably have them join Christian Healthcare Ministries too.

    2. Medi-Share

    Medi-Share is another very popular Christian healthcare sharing ministry worth considering. Instead of offering different packages of programs, they have different “monthly shares” (prices) for each “annual household portion” (like a deductible).

    To find out how much you'd have to pay you can use their share calculator which only requires the number of people applying, the birth date of the oldest person, and if you're a current member or not.

    For our family, the pricing would be much more than we're paying now, so it's not worth it to us. But if you have a smaller family – say, two people – it might be worth taking a look.

    3. Samaritan Ministries

    Samaritan Ministries has a unique way of sharing healthcare costs. Instead of monthly shares going to the ministry, the ministry directs members to send their monthly shares directly to those in need.

    The monthly share amounts (prices) of Samaritan Ministries are pretty straightforward. Take a look at their pricing structure. It's important, however, to take a look at their FAQ so that you know the limits of medical bill sharing. Currently:

    At Samaritan, a medical need involving less than $300 is not shared among the members. When the need goes over $300, the amount from $300 to $250,000 is shared. (The amount of a need that exceeds $250,000 can be eligible for sharing if the member also joins Samaritan’s Save to Share™.) If a member household has more than three shareable needs in any 12-month period, the first $300 is also shared for the fourth, and any subsequent needs in that period.

    Final Thoughts

    You may be wondering if joining Christian healthcare sharing ministries exempts you from the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Thankfully, the answer is yes. See Section 1501, page 148, of the Affordable Care Act.

    Our family is saving a lot of money going with Christian Healthcare Ministries. You can too! Send us an email at admin@laurengreutman.com nd request more information – plus, you'll be supporting us at no extra charge (we'll get a discount for referring you to the ministry).

    Are Christian healthcare sharing ministries for everyone? No. Even if you're a Christian, you might want to consider purchasing standard health insurance. Think through all your options, talk them over with your spouse, and make the best decision for you and your family.

    COMMENTS

  • I am looking for health care options for my church — pastors and staff. Is there a group option for any of these healthcare groups?

  • Hello! My husband had a triple bypass in December of 2014…we have been small business owners for 19 plus years. We did not have insurance and we still are without insurance. We are also Pastors and have been involved in ministry for 41 years. We are looking into this type of health coverage, can you advise us. Thank you kindly.

    Pearl Gonzalez

    • Pearl – I would recommend calling all of them and seeing what your options are. I’ve used CHM and it was good. I’ve heard others are on Samaritan and do okay as well.

  • Pearl, sorry to hear about your husbands triple bypass surgery. Sadly, we all know someone with cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, there is a way to reverse it with a Whole Food Plant Based diet and mitigate any future heart attack. If you haven’t watched the “Forks Over Knives” documentary or the “What the Health?” documentary, I would urge you to consider it. Also, check out Dr. Michael Greger’s http://www.nutritionfacts.org website for valuable information. Best of luck to you, David

  • Which one of these three would you recommend to a couple with two kids 9 and 19 years old? Age of adults 40 and 44, no preexisting conditions except high blood pressure for one of us. I’ve just started to study the information about this types of insurance, it’s pretty confusing. I wonder how do members pay for routine doctors visits, like rout canal or child’s ear infections, etc.?

    Thank you in advance for your help, Veronika.

    • You asked: “how do members pay for routine doctors visits…?”
      A: Out of their pocket.

      If you have a zero deductible insurance policy (very unusual these days) with no co-pays and 100% coverage for doctors visits and such, the health-share model will be quite different. If you have a high-deductible policy (the only kind of insurance I’ve been able to afford for years), health sharing will be very similar.

      So lets say with traditional insurance a family of 4 pays $950/mo., which includes preventive routine exams for free, no deductible, and has 70% coverage after. Lets say each of 4 family members goes to the doctor each year for visits each year there is 1 person with some kind of incident (maybe a trip to the ER with x-rays & cast) billed at $2,800. On insurance, they would pay about $11,400 per year in premiums, $0 for the office visit and $840 (30% after the insurance paid 70%) for the ER visit, so the yearly total cost the family pays out of their pocket in this scenario would be $12,240.

      Now lets say the same family instead opts for a health sharing ministry with premiums of $500/mo. Same exact year as above – They each go to the doctor and pay out of pocket $150/visit (150×4=$600) and one has a ER visit totaling $2,800. They may pay $300 or $500 or $1,000 towards the $2,800 ER bill, depending what ministry and what counts for “sharing.” If they paid $1,000 for the ER incident, their total yearly cost would be $7,600. (premiums of $6,000 + $600 dr visits + $1,000 towards ER)

      In this example, the health sharing model saves over $4,000 / year.

      In other words, many healthy families save because they are not paying high monthly premiums and even though they spend out-of-pocket for the occasional doctor visit, at the end of a year, they might save several thousand. In my personal experience, I was paying $X / month for a high-deductible insurance policy. My insurance didn’t pay a dime until I spent $5,000 or so out-of-pocket. When I switched to a health share both saved me money every month AND it reduced what I paid out of pocket in a year since the “sharing” kicked in before my deductible would have.

      Now of course, there are some situations where insurance will cost a lot less – particularly when several members of the family have multiple health problems and/or some are on expensive medication. To figure out for your own self, think about what kinds of health needs you typically encounter in an average year, look at what you currently pay for insurance + copays and compare that to what you’d pay for health sharing + out-of-pocket for routine visits + the member “responsibility” amount for a medical incident.

      I hope this helps!

  • Hello,
    For Christian Healthcare, how do you document the fact that you have obtained the required discount? In other words, what do they require you to submit to prove that you obtained a discount on the medical treatment or treatments if you’re accumulating charges toward you $1000 minimum?

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