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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.