What do you call a cheap health insurance plan with a low deductible?
Heh… well, maybe, but there’s something that’s similar. A membership to a health sharing ministry.
Health sharing ministries are an option to health insurance, but they aren’t the same as a commercial health insurance plan. The main difference is where a health insurance company has legal obligations to pay a claim and is regulated by the state, health sharing ministries are unregulated and while they imply that they’ll pay (or ‘share’) a member’s medical expenses when needed, in the legal fine print they stress that everything is voluntary.
Asked by Consumer Press about the difference between health insurance and health sharing, Angie Diller, the Communications Manager for Liberty HealthShare, said she really can’t compare the two because they are so different.
Diller explained it this way:
“Joining a healthcare sharing ministry means that you are pledging to help other members with their eligible medical needs. This pledge by your fellow members is what members rely on to help fund eligible medical costs in times of need. Liberty HealthShare does not and cannot offer a guarantee because the funds come from members, not from Liberty HealthShare.”
“Liberty HealthShare facilitates payment from member to member. If the medical needs of members go above the sharing amount given by members, there may be an increase in the sharing amount to help those members in need.”
Questioned about the benefits of joining a health sharing ministry, Diller said:
“Members of Liberty Healthshare enjoy the freedom of being in charge of their own healthcare. They can see that their money is going to help other people in their time of need. Our members live healthy lifestyles, and their costs are typically less. We emphasize spiritual principles of wellness, health and prevention. Health conscious people tend to have fewer bills, lower costs and more rapid recoveries.”
Diller uses the words “spiritual principles” and “healthy lifestyles”. These are two things that all health sharing ministries have in common, though each applies them in different ways.
Health sharing ministries are faith based. While some go as far as stating that a church leader may need to confirm the applicant is a Christian, others simply ask that members agree to a statement of shared beliefs.
And for the most part, health sharing ministries don’t cover pre-existing conditions without there being some hoops to jump through, and they don’t share medical expenses related to behaviors antithetical to Christian beliefs.
Because health sharing ministries are not insurance, they have less overhead and expenses. They don’t have to deal with insurance requirements and regulations, they can limit their memberships to those with shared beliefs and healthy lifestyles, they don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions (though as mentioned earlier, some do in various ways), they don’t have to cover (share) medical costs related to lifestyle choices they define as unhealthy, and they are not profit driven.
The result is that health sharing ministries tend to be much cheaper than health insurance plans.
My daughter and I become members of Liberty HealthShare last year. Our previous health insurance plan was no longer offered by the company we were with. The alternative plan offered: $750/month, with a $10,000 annual deductible and a million dollar lifetime limit.
Joining Liberty Healthshare costs us $250/month, with a $1000 annual unshared amount (think deductible) and a million dollar limit per incident.
So switching from health insurance to a health sharing ministry was an obvious choice for us.
But was it a good choice?
Fortunately, we have not had a medical incident where we’ve needed to test Liberty Healthshare when it comes to them helping with our medical bills. To date though, their member/customer service has been very helpful with any questions or needs we have had. And they’ve been proactive, calling us after a hurricane went through our area to ask if we were okay and if they could do anything to help. Sure didn’t get that level of concern from my previous health insurance company (nor my homeowners insurance, for that matter).
Liberty Healthshare, and I’m sure other health sharing ministries as well, sends out a monthly newsletter to members stating how much has been brought in through member contributions and how much has been shared to members needing medical care. The newsletter features information and feel good stories about people who have been helped. It does make it feel more like you are actually contributing and helping others than paying a fee to an insurance company, more like being a member of a friendly co-op than a customer.
• Liberty Healthshare – plans/programs.
• Christian Healthcare Ministries – plans/programs.
• Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share – cost calculator.
• Samaritan Ministries – cost calculator.
• MCS Medical Cost Sharing – plans/programs.
• Altrua Healthshare – plans/programs.
Included above are a link to the homepage of each and a link to its plans and/or price calculator. The cost of each, and what they cover, vary greatly.
Now I’ll turn this over to you – have you used a health sharing ministry?
If so, please tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.
And if you found this story useful, please share it with your friends, family and followers!
They’ll appreciate the info!