“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Taken from the Epistle to the Galatians, ninth book of the New Testament, this advice forms the groundwork philosophy of most health care sharing ministries. These charitable non-profit organizations offer a less expensive alternative to health insurance, used by thousands of households and individuals throughout the United States – predominantly low income earners.
Health sharing ministries, as their name indicates, share the costs of expensive treatments between their members. They operate similarly to health insurance companies: the funds to cover the medical expenses of individual members are withdrawn from a pool to which all members contribute monthly. However, ministries are not insurance companies. They technically do not offer insurance, so they make no insurance guarantees, nor do they employ actuaries to measure risk. Despite this, members of the four major health sharing ministries which have been in practice since December 31, 1999 – Liberty HealthShare, Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Min. and Samaritan – are exempt from the Obamacare uninsured tax penalties by grandfather clause.
Unlike health insurance providers, ministries don’t have limited “open enrollment” periods – enrollment is always open. However, to prevent members from joining just when they’re about to incur expenses, ministries typically limit sharing to accidents, acute illness or injury for the first months. Sharing related to pre-existing conditions is also limited at first.
In health share ministries, members hold more responsibility for their health care decisions than with standard insurance companies, typically choosing their own medical providers and paying their own costs. Instead of deductibles and co-pays, health sharing ministries have an “annual unshared amount”. This is the annual amount you have to pay before the ministry starts sharing your costs. This encourages members to be careful with their medical expenses to avoid unnecessary medical procedures. On the plus side, they don’t have an upper coverage limit, meaning that if you do incur particularly severe expenses, you’re protected no matter what.
Health sharing ministries are not for everyone: they have very strict rules regarding eligibility. Most of them, including the four mentioned above, only accept practicing Christians. Members who break Christian values by engaging in extramarital sex, using contraceptives or taking drugs may be expelled. In addition, to encourage members to lead healthy lives, most ministries do not cover preventative healthcare. Some (notably Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Min) do not cover natural/alternative treatments, either.
Health care sharing ministries are an attractive health care alternative for Christian individuals and families, but for many American citizens, those who are unable to fit their staunch requirements, health insurance remains the only real option. Visit HealthQuoteInfo to find health insurance that suits you and your family without having to break the bank.